By MALLORY GRUBEN
Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association is asking the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) to hold a union election for 235 hospitalists at Legacy Health.
The proposed unit would cover the doctors, nurse practitioners, and physician assistants at all eight Legacy Health hospitals in Oregon and Southwest Washington.
“Since starting at Legacy (two years ago), it’s been a lot of feeling like we are asking for reasonable things that affect our working conditions and patient safety, but oftentimes we are not heard,” said Eric Seymour, a pediatric hospitalist and member of the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association. A surge in respiratory illnesses last year was a case in point, Seymour said.
“We were caring for sicker patients, we were caring for more patients, and we simply asked for more staff in order to do it. And Legacy didn’t help. They basically said no,” Seymour said. “We want to take some formal steps to make sure we have a seat at the table, so we can advocate for our patients, which is our job.”
The organizing campaign started before workers knew about Legacy’s plans to merge with Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU), but Seymour said that proposal has only strengthened their resolve.
Legacy Health is a private nonprofit health system that operates eight hospitals plus more than 70 clinics in Oregon and Washington.
Under an agreement with the Oregon Nurses Association, ONA would provide staff to represent the hospitalists, but the workers would be members of the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association. Both unions are affiliates of the American Federation of Teachers, which has a fast-growing arm that represents health care workers. ONA represents nearly 700 nurses and mental and behavioral health professionals at Legacy hospitals in Oregon.
The NLRB had not set an election date by press time.