By COLIN STAUB
Union nurses at Providence St. Vincent are willing to walk off the job—because the hospital won’t address their demands in contract negotiations.
Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) held a strike vote from April 19 through May 3. After votes were counted May 4, the union announced an “overwhelming majority” of the hospital’s 1,600 ONA-represented nurses signaled support for walking out.
The strike vote comes after more than six months of bargaining. ONA says Providence has failed to adequately address wages and benefits, staffing levels, and patient safety standards in the new contract.
Providence is currently offering a 15% raise over three years, while ONA is proposing 20.02%. ONA also wants a commitment that health coverage costs won’t increase over the life of the contract, while the Providence offer allows for a 30% premium increase over three years. ONA proposes adding contract language laying out nurse-to-patient staffing standards; the latest Providence proposal doesn’t go that far, but it does create a mechanism for nurses to escalate staffing concerns to a committee charged with reviewing staffing problems.
Nurses are also frustrated with alleged threats and retaliation by hospital management against nurses who are active in the union. According to ONA, Providence managers have interfered with workers’ discussions about contract negotiations, removed union fliers from workplace areas where they’re permitted, questioned whether nurses “need more work” when they attend bargaining sessions on personal time, and more. The union filed an unfair labor practice charge describing such activity in April.
In an emailed statement, a Providence St. Vincent spokesperson said the strike vote “is just the latest attempt to delay meaningful discussion.”
“When it comes to negotiations, Providence St. Vincent believes that talking solves more than walking,” the spokesperson added.
Nurses haven’t set a date for when they’ll walk out. Under federal law, hospital workers must give the hospital 10 days’ notice before the strike begins.
The next bargaining sessions are set for May 10 and May 23.
The St. Vincent contract is one of three that are expired in the Providence system. Negotiations are also in process for facilities at Willamette Falls (in Oregon City), Hood River and Milwaukie.
ONA will hold a rally and march at 5 p.m. May 11, at the Providence Willamette Falls Community Center at 519 15th St. in Oregon City.