Oregon hospital nurses authorize strike

Members of the Oregon Nurses Association voted to authorize a strike at St. Charles Bend on May 21. 

The union represents 962 nurses employed at St. Charles, and a majority of voting union members voted in favor of authorizing a strike, according to a May 21 news release from ONA. 

A strike authorization does not mean a strike will occur. The union would have to deliver a 10-day notice before going on strike.

The union has been in negotiations with St. Charles leaders since December. Nurse leaders are slated to meet with hospital management May 23-24 to continue discussions. They are seeking access to affordable healthcare, competitive wages and improved working conditions to resolve nurse retention issues at the hospital. 

Nurses also filed a series of unsafe staffing complaints with the Oregon Health Authority earlier this month, claiming that the hospital fails to meet safe staffing standards or provide meal breaks to staff, among other allegations.

Julie Ostrom, BSN, a senior nursing leader and member of the St. Charles bargaining team, said the organization has "made numerous strides" in recruiting and retaining nursing staff. In 2022, St. Charles Bend reported its lowest turnover rate in three years, according to Ms. Ostrom. The system also implemented a $5 hourly wage increase for all bedside nurses for an average annual full-time salary of $108,000 — one of the highest nursing salaries in the state of Oregon, she said.  

"While ONA's strike tactics are not unexpected, we believe they are detrimental to our shared goals of recruiting and retaining quality nursing staff," Ms. Ostrom told Becker's. "We have every intention of coming to an agreement and we are looking forward to two productive bargaining sessions this week, followed by four additional sessions in June. In the unlikely event we are unable to reach an agreement, we want to reassure our patients and community that our doors will remain open to provide care."

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