Picket lines are up at PeaceHealth in Vancouver, Longview until Oct. 28
The following is from the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), AFT Local 5017, AFL-CIO:
UPDATE (Oct. 23, 2023) — This morning at 6:30 a.m., more than 1,300 healthcare workers from PeaceHealth Southwest and St. John are walking off the job and onto a picket line. These frontline healthcare workers, who are members of the OFNHP and in the Tech, Service and Maintenance, and Lab Professional units, have been fighting Unfair Labor Practices (ULPs) for months.
After violating federal law, the employer again committed ULPs after the strike was announced including canceling bargaining sessions and refusing to bargain in good faith. Since OFNHP filed charges, they have offered replacement workers $8,000 per week to cross the picket line and threatened to cancel striking employees’ health insurance if the strike lasts into November.
“This strike was caused by management’s continual unwillingness to follow federal labor law. We are also fighting in bargaining for PeaceHealth to pay their workers living wages, fix short staffing, and address the issues that threaten the future of patient care,” said Jonathon Baker, OFNHP’s president and a Lab Professional at PeaceHealth St. John. “Instead of trying to solve these problems, they broke the law again by canceling our bargaining sessions in retaliation for exercising our legal rights and are choosing to terminate the healthcare insurance that these workers depend on. This is a cruel form of collective punishment directed at a group of healthcare workers they previously called ‘heroes’ when they were saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
These workers are joined in bargaining by 350 Techs at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Eugene, Oregon, who could choose to hold a strike authorization vote at any time. If they call for a strike, that could mean a total of 1,700 healthcare workers striking at three hospitals across two states.
TAKE A STAND — The strike will begin at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 23. All union members and community supporters are invited to join the picket lines at both PeaceHealth Southwest (400 NE Mother Joseph Pl. in Vancouver) and PeaceHealth St. John (1615 Delaware St. in Longview). Workers will be prepared to return to work on Saturday, Oct. 28.
► From the Oregonian (Oct. 23) — PeaceHealth workers in SW Washington to limit strike to retain health insurance — The day before more than 1,300 healthcare workers in southwest Washington are expected to go on strike, the workers have decided on a major strategic shift. Rather than an open-ended walkout, the workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver and St. John Medical Center in Longview have decided to stay out just five days. They did so to neutralize the threat from PeaceHealth management to eliminate their health insurance.
VANCOUVER, Wash. (Oct. 19, 2023) — After more than 1,300 workers announced that they will walk out to strike this coming Monday, Oct. 23, PeaceHealth decided to walk away from the bargaining table. The workers are members of the OFNHP, many of whom have been bargaining fruitlessly for months. PeaceHealth has additionally taken the unheard of threat to cut the health insurance of these striking workers if their strike lasts into November.
“This may be the most punitive, cruel, and egregious thing I’ve ever seen an employer do as an act against health professionals fighting for their communities,” said OFNHP President Jonathon Baker. “This is putting these frontline healthcare workers at severe risk of health complications, which is a particularly brutal thing to do amidst a healthcare crisis, especially since many of these health professionals literally put themselves on the line saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
TAKE A STAND — The strike will begin at 6:30 a.m. on Monday, Oct. 23. All union members and community supporters are invited to join the picket lines at both PeaceHealth Southwest (400 NE Mother Joseph Pl. in Vancouver) and PeaceHealth St. John (1615 Delaware St. in Longview).
While it is legal, it is incredibly uncommon for an employer to sever healthcare access for workers during a strike. This would leave the workers from the Tech and Service and Maintenance Units at PeaceHealth Southwest and the Lab Professionals at PeaceHealth St. John in a vulnerable state, particularly those with chronic health conditions, disabilities, or dependents.
“I am still recovering from cancer and if management severs my health insurance it could throw me, and many other staff, into a dire health crisis,” said Cassie Cook, a CT Tech at PeaceHealth Southwest, who notes that she must receive monthly injections as part of her cancer treatment that cost nearly $3,000 a month if her insurance is canceled. “I simply don’t know what I’m going to do. I am not sure how I am going to survive.”
Additionally, PeaceHealth is offering upwards of $9,000 a week to strikebreaking travelers, which is well over double what they pay these union workers and much more than the workers are asking for in negotiations. These workers are saying the historically low wages and short staffing remain the primary issues, and some of the units are saying that it could require a nearly 40% raise in wages over the course of the contract life to make their pay competitive for the market.
These 1,300 workers are joined by 350 Techs at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart, who have not authorized a strike but are still bargaining and taking worksite action to win a fair contract. If those workers join the strike, that would mean the total number of striking workers would top 1,700 across three hospitals and two states. OFNHP St. Charles Medical Center techs in Bend struck for 9 days over similar issues in 2021, and OFNHP members at Kaiser Permanente the same year approached what would have been among the largest healthcare strikes in American history.
Founded in 1979, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), AFT Local 5017 is a union of more than 6,000 nurses and health professionals in Oregon and Southwest Washington. Learn more at ofnhp.aft.org.
The Stand (Oct. 11) — 1,300 PeaceHealth SW workers vote to strike
► From the Northwest Labor Press — Workers set to strike Oct. 23 at PeaceHealth — More than 1,300 health care workers at two PeaceHealth hospitals in Southwest Washington will walk off their jobs Oct. 23 if they don’t reach a tentative contract agreement with hospital executives. Because there are no bargaining sessions planned before that date, a strike is highly likely.
► From the Oregonian (Oct. 17) — PeaceHealth
says threatens striking hospital workers could lose health insurance — More than 1,300 employees at Vancouver’s largest hospital, PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center, will lose their health insurance as of Nov. 1 if they go through with a threatened strike next week, hospital administrators warned Tuesday. Union advocates consider the insurance threat the latest in a series of hard-nosed actions by PeaceHealth to break the will of workers, who voted 95% in favor of going on strike last week. “PeaceHealth has definitely taken the low road, with their threats and intimidation,” said Shawna Ross, a sonographer at PeaceHealth Southwest Washington.