St. Charles physicians, healthcare workers revive unionization efforts

St. Charles Medical Group physicians, nurse practitioners, physician assistants and other healthcare workers have refiled their petition with the National Labor Relations Board for union representation, according to an Aug. 1 news release.

The approximately 300 workers seek to hold an election to decide whether to join the American Federation of Teachers. Workers initially filed their petition in June. A new petition was filed Aug. 1 after St. Charles management raised issues amid the union organizing process, according to the release from the Central Oregon Providers Network.

The Central Oregon Providers Network said: "St. Charles management alleged that some of the campaign's original organizing team leaders were supervisors. The union disagreed but chose to restart the process with a new card collection. The new petition for a union, like the previous one, would include all 300 providers."

St. Charles Medical Group is the employed provider arm of Bend, Ore.-based St. Charles Health System. The St. Charles Medical Group workers seeking a union election work at St. Charles hospitals and other healthcare facilities in six cities in central Oregon — Bend, La Pine, Madras, Prineville, Redmond and Sisters. They are physicians, physician assistants, nurse practitioners, social workers, perfusionists, registered nurses, counselors, therapists and certified nurse midwives.

In the Central Oregon Providers Network release, Debbie Rief-Adams, a St. Charles nurse practitioner, contends that hospital administrators have failed to listen to workers' concerns and ideas to improve the financial situation but not negatively affect patient care.

St. Charles Health System announced in May that the organization would cut 181 positions amid financial struggles. The reduction includes laying off 105 caregivers and eliminating 76 vacant positions. Additionally, the health system has laid off two leaders.

In an Aug. 1 statement shared with Becker's, St. Charles Health system said it had not been notified that the original petition filed by the Central Oregon Providers Network was withdrawn or dismissed by the National Labor Relations Board or that a new petition was filed.  

"St. Charles has an obligation to ensure all laws are followed in the union organizing process," the statement said. "Just as some of our providers are interested in union representation, others included in this group have shared that they have no desire to be represented. We want the rights of all of our employees honored throughout this process." 

St. Charles Health System also said the organization "continue[s] to work collaboratively with our employees to manage St. Charles Health System during a very challenging time and would like to reassure our patients that providing quality, compassionate care continues to be our top priority."

The Central Oregon Providers Network said it will work with the National Labor Relations Board to schedule a new hearing on the petition so it can finalize a date for a unionization election.

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