Nearly a hundred frontline healthcare workers, community supporters, and patients rallied at PeaceHealth Southwest in Vancouver, Washington on October 10th. The rally was organized in response to the claims by union members of a “bully boss” who has made threats of discipline and harsh instruction a trenchant part of their working experience. We are hearing stories of yelling and mistreatment by managers, some that have included threats of violence against thee frontline healthcare workers.
"Our members are facing a bully boss who makes them feel unsafe at work and who they fear could interfere with them in providing the care they feel to be best for their patients," said OFNHP President Jonathon Baker, who is also a PeaceHealth employee, pointing out that high turnover is the result of bad working conditions and this fact could further accelerate the staffing crisis. “We cannot allow this abuse to continue unnoticed and unaddressed. They called us heroes during the pandemic, but then willfully permit this disrespectful and unnerving work environment."
This boss is affecting specifically the Patient Access Representatives in the admitting department, though members say that this type of oppressive management and micromanaging has become common at PeaceHealth. Instead of dealing with short staffing in ways that attract and retain qualified staff, management seems to believe that brutal managerial control will force workers to fill the gaps left by empty positions.
“The only thing hard about my job is my managers. There is no work life balance here, zero appreciation for their employees, and absolutely no respect or compassion,” says Kat Spencer, a Patient Access Representative at PeaceHealth. “I feel exhausted, frustrated, angry, painfully unappreciated, and, frankly, sad…I walk on eggshells every single time I come to work.”
Workers came together for the rally with the support of other unions and community groups, including the Evergreen Education Association, the Oregon Nurses Association, the Washington State Nurses Association, The Southwest Washington Labor Council, Oregon AFL-CIO, Portland Jobs With Justice, the Teamsters, BCTGM Local 114, and the Democratic Socialists of America, among others. Waving signs that demanded an “end to bully bosses” and justice for frontline healthcare workers, attendees had one unified message: abusive working conditions have to be eliminated immediately.
There were speeches from leaders at Jobs With Justice and the Democratic Socialists of America, confronting the abusive conditions that are being reported and demanding that management live up to the stated mission of PeaceHealth, which is supposed to be in carrying on the caring tradition of Jesus Christ.
"Management, we call on you to walk the talk. Taking to heart the company's own stated mission 'to carry on the mission of Jesus Christ by promoting personal and community health, relieving pain and suffering, and treating each person in a loving and caring way.' The healing mission of Jesus is not bullying. So what better way to do this than to treat your workers fairly?" says Reverend Connie Yost, a member of the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs With Justice and a Unitarian minister.
Members have filed at least three class action grievances over the issues that have been raised that members say include violations of the contract such as sudden work assignment and schedule changes, and the PARs issued a “no confidence” vote in their manager with more than 80% of affected members signing on. Despite this, PeaceHealth has not made movement on ceasing these working conditions and repairing the damage created by their bully boss, instead issuing a notice contesting the concerted activity that was on display on the 10th. These members continue to face fears of retaliation, and the PARs has seen nearly 100% turnover in the past two years.