By Don McIntosh
A group of about 330 medical technicians at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart hospital in Springfield and Eugene, Oregon, ratified their first-ever union contract by a roughly 9-to-1 margin on Aug. 10. That’s after the workers voted to unionize last November by a more than three to one margin, joining Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP), an affiliate of American Federation of Teachers (AFT).
The new three-year agreement provides annual raises of 3 percent, plus additional raises of 1 to 3 percent halfway through the third year in order to get members on a unified union wage scale based on classification. It locks in the existing 401(k) retirement plan and health insurance for employees and their families. A new labor management committee will jointly administer a $30,000 a year education fund for pay for members to attend professional trainings. And the contract institutes standard union contract rights like “just cause” discipline, a grievance process, and seniority rights, as well as a requirement that all represented employees share responsibility for union dues or fees.
But the gain that members are most enthusiastic about has to do with paid time off, says OFNHP president Adrienne Enghouse. Medical technicians were motivated to unionize when PeaceHealth management decreed that they would no longer accrue paid time off for overtime hours they worked, only on the first 40 hours. The new contract restores paid time off accrual for all hours worked.
Enghouse said there’s also been a shift in workplace culture at the hospital.
“They really didn’t feel respected or feel like their voice was heard,” Enghouse said. “The union has changed the tone of their relationship with management to one that’s more collaborative.”