Oregon hospital workers prepare to return to work after 5-day strike

About 300 healthcare workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, Ore., are preparing to go back to work after a five-day strike at the hospital, according to the union that represents them. 

The workers, who are members of Service Employees International Union Local 49, include certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and other professionals. They began their strike Dec. 6 and plan to return to work at 7 a.m. Dec. 11. 

For several months, SEIU Local 49 has been in negotiations with hospital management seeking a fair contract that provides safe staffing, fair wages, affordable healthcare benefits, and COVID-19 protections that include hazard pay and more paid time off for COVID-19-related absences, the union said in a news release. Additionally, workers have taken issue with the hospital's plans to outsource colleagues to HHS, a Texas-based staffing company, and alleged that hospital management has not negotiated in good faith.

"McKenzie-Willamette workers held a powerful strike through a week of cold and rain to let McKenzie-Willamette management know that they will not accept subpar proposals and deserve recognition for their dedication through this pandemic, working tirelessly to keep the community safe," the union said. 

Now, SEIU Local 49 said its members are more committed than ever about their contract goals and remain ready to meet with hospital management to resolve the contract.  

McKenzie-Willamette, in a Dec. 10 statement shared with Becker's, said the hospital also is hopeful to reach an agreement and continue in active negotiations. 

"Despite the ongoing distractions, we're proud patients continue to choose our hospital, and we continue to provide uninterrupted, safe care," the statement said. "We respect the bargaining process and will continue to navigate these issues with our SEIU counterparts. We will also stay true to our mission to provide high-quality care for our community while supporting our team members."

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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