By MALLORY GRUBEN
More than 1,000 health care workers at two PeaceHealth hospitals in Southwest Washington voted by 95% to authorize a strike in ballots counted Oct. 6.
Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP) represents lab professionals and techs, service, and maintenance workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver and PeaceHealth St. John in Longview. The bargaining units include respiratory therapists, licensed practical nurses, X-ray technologists, surgical technologists, and workers who test blood, tissue, and other samples.
OFNHP started negotiating new contracts for the workers this year, but the two sides remain far apart on wages and staffing standards. For example, in August, the union proposed annual raises of 25% raise, 15%, and 10% for health techs in Longview, and the hospital countered with 2% to 3% in the first year, and 2% a year after.
“Management is forcing us to potentially strike simply because they don’t want to pay living wages or take any action to ensure that we have safe staffing levels,” OFNHP President Jonathon Baker said in a prepared statement. Before he went to work full time for the union as president, Baker worked in the lab at Longview hospital.
Workers will share stories about their experience working for PeaceHealth at an informational picket at 5 p.m. Oct. 11 outside PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center.
A third unit of PeaceHealth workers — the health care techs at Sacred Heart in Eugene — is also in negotiations. They may also hold a strike vote shortly after the Washington workers.