PeaceHealth deploys home health nurse strikebreakers in Eugene


Registered nurses who provide home care service for PeaceHealth Sacred Heart started a two-week strike Feb. 10. The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) represents the unit of about 90 nurses who provide hospice and other care to patients in their homes in the Eugene-Springfield area.

PeaceHealth has canceled all bargaining sessions and hired strikebreakers to temporarily replace nurses while they’re picketing. In a prepared statement, PeaceHealth said the replacements are experienced caregivers, and the strike will not affect hospital operations. Jo Turner, the union’s bargaining team chair, says non-nursing colleagues in her department have told her that’s all talk: There are fewer strikebreakers than nurses to replace, and they are not as qualified as the usual staff.

The nurses began bargaining a new contract more than a year ago, and their previous contract expired in April 2023. They are asking for raises that match the 20.5% raise over four years that PeaceHealth gave its hospital nurses in August. ONA also represents the hospital nurses, and historically the two units have been paid the same.

The hospital’s most recent proposal would raise wages 14.75% over four years. In a prepared statement, PeaceHealth said the nurses currently earn up to 2.9% above what the typical pay is for their job.

“Under our proposed new contract, that would increase immediately to 8% above market,” PeaceHealth wrote.

ONA says the market comparison uses pay for non-union, less skilled nurses who work with patients whose needs are less complex, so it doesn’t reflect the skill, experience, or job demands of the PeaceHealth staff. For example, as a hospice nurse, Turner (the bargaining chair) knows how to do wound VACs, or use special equipment to apply suction to a wound to drain it and help it heal — something most hospice nurses are never trained to do. She works with two pediatric hospice nurses who are specially trained to care for children with serious health conditions.

“And there isn’t any other hospice that does pediatric nursing south of Salem,” Turner said.

The nurses originally planned to walk out Feb. 1 but moved the start date, saying PeaceHealth had been slow to arrange alternate care for patients and would be unprepared to care for them during a strike. PeaceHealth also threatened to cut nurses’ medical insurance if they struck most of February, so ONA pushed the start date to avoid that from happening.

Turner said leading up to the strike, some managers had encouraged nurses to prescribe extra medication or rewrite the care plans to call for less frequent visits, so there would be less work for the strikebreakers.

“They wanted us to stock them up with supplies and narcotics, which is not appropriate, so our nurses didn’t do that,” Turner said. The frequency of visits scheduled represents the minimum level of care a patient needs, so nurses also refused to change care plans, Turner said.

Turner said it was difficult to strike knowing that her patients would probably receive lower quality care, but her patients told her they support her decision. Some have even visited the picket line to stand in solidarity with the nurses, she said.

Nearly 200 people attended a strike kickoff rally on Feb. 10. Teamsters members who deliver supplies to and from the hospital and who drive the garbage trucks that collect its biohazard waste have refused to cross the picket line to make deliveries or pick up trash, Turner said. Nurses also have received supportive honks from most drivers who pass by the home care headquarters at PeaceHealth Riverbend Annex on 123 International Way in Springfield.

“Regardless of what happens, the community has been there for us … and that means everything,” Turner said.

The nurses will remain on strike through Feb. 24. ONA is calling on supporters to visit to sign a petition in support of nurses, or to sign up for a four-hour shift walking the picket line with nurses.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

Read more