American Federation of Teachers (AFT) is ramping up a campaign to represent 310 licensed technical workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver. Nurses there are represented by Washington State Nurses Association (WSNA) an AFT affiliate, but previous attempts to unionize among the hospital’s support workers have failed.
The hospital was known as Southwest Washington Medical Center until it merged with the Peacehealth network in 2010. In a multi-union election held Aug. 7, 1998, nurses voted to join WSNA, and stationary engineers voted to join Operating Engineers Local 701, but Service Employees (SEIU) Local 49 lost among the technical workers and among non-professional support workers. Office and Professional Employees Local 11 later campaigned in 2008 to represent 26 surgical technicians, but dropped the effort when the National Labor Relations Board decided that was not an appropriate bargaining unit.
But union organizer Joe Crane says worsening conditions have led to renewed interest in unionizing. Workers recently lost a paid leave provision, and some are unhappy with a costly health insurance plan that has high deductibles.
The union campaign has been under way since last summer among technical workers, including MRI, surgical, radiology, CT, ultrasound, anesthesia and pharmacy techs, physical and occupational therapists, and LPNs. If workers unionize, they would become members of PeaceHealth Southwest Caregivers United, a unit of Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), an AFT affiliate.
The vote will take place June 1 and 2. After AFT filed the petition seeking an election, SEIU Local 49 also expressed interest, so workers will choose between AFT, SEIU and remaining nonunion.