By Don McIntosh
A group of 448 workers at OHSU Hillsboro Medical Center voted more than two-to-one to unionize with Oregon AFSCME, in mail ballots counted on Jan. 7. The official tally was 164 to 61 in favor of the union.
“I’m feeling ecstatic,” said emergency room receptionist Shellie Powers, the worker who first contacted the union back in April 2020. “It’s so overwhelming.”
Oregon AFSCME organizer Sarah Thompson said a management anti-union campaign advised by Bullard Law seemed to backfire and turn workers toward the union.
The hospital and its nearby facilities were known as Tuality Health Care until 2016, when Tuality became a clinical partner of Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) and adopted the OHSU name. AFSCME represents about 7,000 workers at OHSU’s main campus, and in October 2020 the union presented signed union cards from a majority of workers, seeking union recognition under Oregon’s public employee union law. But hospital management said Tuality, a private entity, was still the true employer, so AFSCME petitioned the National Labor Relations Board to conduct a union election.
Thompson said the next step is for workers to select bargaining committee members and decide what they want to push for in a first contract. Union proposals are likely to include better pay and benefits and greater control over work schedules.
In an emailed statement, OHSU Hillsboro said it will work collaboratively with the union. “The union election is now behind us, and we respect the outcome of the vote,” said human resources vice president Kelley Frengle in the email.
“We’re ready for change,” Powers said. “We’re ready to make it a better place to work for all of us.”