By MALLORY GRUBEN
Union nurses at Oregon Health and Science University (OSHU) began a strike vote Sept. 6 following nearly nine months of negotiations with the hospital’s leaders. If it passes, the vote would allow union leaders to call for an open-ended strike of almost 3,200 nurses represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). Nurses have been working without a contract since their previous agreement expired June 31. On Aug. 9, they declared an impasse and entered a 30-day cooling off period.
“We do not want to strike, but we will if that’s what it takes to protect our nurses and patients for years to come,” bargaining unit president Elisa Youngman said in a press statement.
Workers want a contract that sets safe staffing ratios, provides retention and recruitment incentives, and improves workplace safety amidst increased assaults, gun violence, and injuries. Nurses hope to reach an agreement before the hospital moves forward with its plans to purchase Legacy Health System — a merger that would make OHSU the largest health care system in the Portland metro area.
Under federal labor law, hospital nurses must provide at least 10-day notice if they intend to strike. Their strike vote runs through Sept. 17, so the earliest they could walk out is Sept. 28.