At Springfield’s PeaceHealth Sacred Heart hospital, medical techs vote overwhelmingly to unionize

At AFT offices in Oregon, pro-union workers celebrate a major union election win at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart hospital. (Photo from AFT via Twitter)

At PeaceHealth Sacred Heart hospital facilities in Springfield and Eugene, Oregon, medical technicians unionized in a landslide 221-to-64 vote Nov. 28 and 29.

The new 350-member bargaining unit will be part of Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), which is also known as Local 5017 of the American Federation of Teachers (AFT).

OFNHP president Adrienne Enghouse says the union campaign began with a supportive nudge from one hospital worker’s husband. Coming home upset, she would complain about conditions at Sacred Heart to her husband, a Eugene firefighter. As a member of the International Association of Fire Fighters (IAFF), he told her she needed a union. She took the advice and found her way AFT, and the national union assigned organizers to help.

By Nov. 6, the union had enough support to ask the National Labor Relations Board to oversee a union election for 51 occupational classifications, including pharmacy and surgical techs; CT, EEG, MRI and ultrasound technicians; licensed practical nurses; and respiratory therapists.

Enghouse says PeaceHealth didn’t hire “union avoidance” consultants like many employers do, but did hold one-sided “informational meetings” about what it’s like to be in a union. The meetings failed to persuade.

The addition of the new union of medical technicians means PeaceHealth Sacred Heart may now be one of Oregon’s most heavily unionized hospitals. Nurses at Sacred Heart are represented by Oregon Nurses Association, which is also an AFT affiliate. Hospital support workers belong to Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49. Stationary engineers and skilled maintenance employees who maintain building systems and equipment are members of Operating Engineers Local 701. Even the doctors are union-represented, part of AFT Local 6552.

“We’re happy that these workers are going to have a voice in their workplace,” Enghouse said. “It makes me feel proud to work with people who are brave enough to stand up for their themselves and their patients.”

AFT now represents more than 5,000 healthcare professionals throughout the PeaceHealth system in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Nationally, the AFT represents 130,000 healthcare professionals, making it the third second-largest healthcare union in the country.

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