By COLIN STAUB
Workers at Springfield-based McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center have a new three-year collective bargaining agreement, SEIU Local 49 announced Jan. 19. Ratified by a majority vote of members, the agreement covers roughly 300 certified nursing assistants, emergency room technicians, pharmacy techs, physical therapists and other support workers at the 113-bed facility. McKenzie-Willamette is owned by Tennessee-based Quorum Health Corp., and is one of only two for-profit hospitals in Oregon.
The new agreement mandates a 4.5% across-the-board pay raise in the first year, and 3% increases in the second and third years. Other increases varied by position; Local 49 says the average increase is nearly 22% over the three years. The CNA starting wage, previously $15.88, will now be $18.81 an hour. Represented employees will also get a $300 ratification bonus and a $750 COVID appreciation bonus.
Rachael Gordon, a CNA Level 2 who served on the bargaining team, said the COVID bonus was a big win for employees.
“At the beginning of the pandemic we had to recycle our N95s,” Gordon said. “We had to wear our isolation gowns several different times. We wanted something back from management, and I’m happy to say that management recognized it and came back to us with $750.”
Bargaining began in August 2021, and grew contentious in the fall. Workers struck for two days in October and five days in December, demanding better contract terms and protesting a company decision to outsource some positions. About 70 former McKenzie-Willamette employees in housekeeping laundry, and food service are now employed by the Texas-based firm HHS. They remain SEIU Local 49 members, but must bargain a separate contract with HHS. SEIU said the union is disappointed in the decision to outsource, but noted that all hospital staff who applied for the outsourced positions were hired by HHS.
“Outsourcing represents an investment in our patients and employees,” McKenzie-Willamette spokesperson Jana Waterman told the Labor Press via email. “HHS is an industry leader and will help to recruit additional staff to further improve the patient experience.”