Oregon hospital workers begin 5-day strike

About 300 workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Ore., will begin a five-day strike Dec. 6, according to the union that represents them.

The strike by members of Service Employees International Union Local 49, including certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and others, is scheduled to last until 7 a.m. Dec. 11. Members also went on strike in October.

Despite bargaining sessions with a federal mediator after the October strike, workers allege unfair labor practices including failing to bargain over issues related to the hospital's COVID-19 vaccination policy and preventing workers from exercising their rights, the union said Dec. 4 in a news release. Workers also allege McKenzie-Willamette has not addressed their safety concerns for patients and staff.

SEIU Local 49 said its members seek a contract that includes safe staffing, fair wages and COVID-19 protections, among other provisions.

"The workers are also striking because they believe that understaffing, high turnover, low wages, lack of affordable healthcare and lack of adequate COVID protections — all matters they are bargaining over — may be creating serious safety risks for both workers and patients," the union added.

McKenzie-Willamette representatives met extensively with the union last week in hopes of reaching a mutually beneficial deal and are disappointed one was not reached, according to a statement from the hospital.

"Compared to the most recent union contract, the hospital offered multiple proposals that include generous wage increases and market adjustments for several positions," the statement reads. "The SEIU denied the proposals to increase wages and is conducting a strike this week. This is an unfortunate outcome at any time, but especially during the holiday season and as we continue to manage a challenging public health crisis."

McKenzie-Willamette said the hospital remains focused on patient care, as well as supporting the community, and will implement its contingency plan, including additional staffing. Inpatient, outpatient and emergency services will remain available during the strike.

McKenzie-Willamette is owned by Brentwood, Tenn.-based Quorum Health Corp. SEIU Local 49 has more than 15,000 members in Oregon, Washington and Idaho, according to the union website

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