SEIU asks for higher pay for Oregon hospital workers

The Service Employees International Union Local 49, Oregon's largest union, is asking that hospital workers be paid more and that hospitals in the state "be a source of high-quality care and high-quality jobs."

A recent study published by the union shows that nearly one in every six hospital workers in Oregon earns less than $16 an hour. Nurses earn living wages, while nurse assistants earn an average wage of $14.52 an hour, according to the study.

"In fact many of the most frequent occupations in hospitals earn around $35,000 annually (assuming full-time work). This is less than 150 percent of the Federal Poverty Line for a family of four and less than Oregon's average per-capita income of $40,233," the study reads.

The study also notes that wages for healthcare support positions have been almost flat, and between 2005 and 2013, the hourly wages of healthcare practitioners and technical occupations increased by more than $4, on average.

SEIU also expressed its belief that Oakland, Calif.-based Kaiser Permanente's rate of high pay disguises how poorly some industry workers are paid. More than half of the top paid certified nursing assistants work for Kaiser.

The union also estimated that if Oregon hospitals dedicated just 8 percent of their profits, they could raise all workers's pay to at least $16 per hour, "removing many workers from the rolls of public assistance."

In response, the Oregon Association of Hospitals and Health Systemsissued the following statement, which was used in a Portland Business Journal report:

"Oregon's hospitals are proud leaders in providing over 50,000 living wage jobs in Oregon. Unfortunately, the data and conclusions in the SEIU report are based on extrapolations and assumptions designed to lead to a certain conclusion. Their motives appear to have far more to do with attempting to grow their union membership based on distorted facts than they do with what our hospital and healthcare workers actually earn on average today. The real irony here is that they have chosen to take aim at a group of employers whose pay and total benefits for their employees already reflects the very things they espouse themselves: Wages that far exceed the federal and state minimum wage and generous health insurance benefits that provide a sense of health security for those covered."

 

More articles on workforce and labor management:

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