Corvallis hospital housekeepers intensify first contract crusade

CORVALLIS - Housekeepers at Corvallis Good Samaritan Hospital are ratcheting up their campaign to get a first union contract. The bargaining unit - comprised primarily of women - rallied with allies in front of the hospital March 16 prior to the start of a scheduled bargaining session.

Housekeepers voted 30 to 6 last December for representation by Operating Engineers Local 701. "There's no reason this should take six or eight months," said Business Representative Tom Lindberg. "We've got all of our proposals on the table and we would like a contract by April 7."

Workers are leery of management's stalling tactics because of the hoops the hospital made them jump through just to be allowed a union vote. During the organizing drive Local 701 had to file for an election twice with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) after discovering that the housekeepers were contract employees with Samaritan Resources, which the union described as a "shell company" to avoid the union.

However, because the housekeepers are contract employees they don't fall under stiff collective bargaining regulations established by the NLRB that cover hospital employees. "We can actually move ahead quicker than if they were actual hospital employees," Lindberg said. "We can do some things that would ordinarily be restrained by the NLRB because it's a hospital."

Lindberg said several future job actions are planned.

Thus far the hospital has limited talks to just three hours each. Some minor work rule language has been finalized, but the hospital has yet to respond to union proposals on such big-ticket items as wages, pensions and vacations.

There are housekeepers who have worked at Good Sam for 20 years who make less than $10 an hour, have no pension, and get fewer than 10 days vacation, Lindberg said.

"This is a church-run (Episcopal) hospital that has workers who can't even afford to live in Corvallis and who qualify for food stamps," Lindberg said. "They are receiving tremendous support from other employees at the hospital and in the community. They are organized and ready to go. They have been abused long enough."

March 17, 2000 issue

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