Home care nurse strike ends without deal


Of all the picket line encounters Erin Grace had during the Feb. 10-24 home care nurses strike at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart, one still nags at her. 

PeaceHealth home care nurse Erin Grace, on strike picket duty.

As Grace and her co-workers marched in front of the entrance to the home health offices in Springfield, a woman who’d been working in the building tried driving home for work. When she saw the strikers, she slammed on her brakes, got out of the car, and shouted at them. 

“She said, ‘We get it! You want more money!’” Grace said. “That was really upsetting for me, because nurses didn’t go on strike for money. We went on strike for parity.” 

Grace and about 90 other home care nurses returned to work Feb. 25, still without a new contract. The nurses are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), which started contract negotiations with PeaceHealth in December 2022. 

PeaceHealth canceled all bargaining sessions during the strike but agreed the last week of the walkout to meet for mediated bargaining on March 6. 

Parity is respect

Usually, PeaceHealth jointly bargains with the home health unit and a unit of about 1,500 hospital nurses, and all nurses are paid the same. But for this round of negotiations, PeaceHealth demanded that bargaining happen separately. Hospital nurses reached an agreement in August that raises wages 20.5% over four years. PeaceHealth’s latest offer to the home health nurses is a 14.75% raise over four years. 

Grace says without an equal contract for equal work, PeaceHealth will have difficulty attracting and retaining home care nurses. According to ONA, the unit has already lost a quarter of its members, and more say they plan to leave if a contract isn’t reached soon. 

Grace worries new nurses will opt for hospital positions over home care if they can make more money doing the same kind of work. 

“We want to continue to have excellent, specialized nurses, and we know we won’t be able to get that without wage parity like we’ve always had,” Grace said. “It’s not like we are asking for more. This is how it’s always been.” 

As an on-call nurse for both home health and hospice, Grace visits patients in their homes. She also serves on the pediatric hospice team and is the home care program’s only perinatal palliative care nurse. She’s worked for PeaceHealth for 18 years. 

She says she feels disrespected knowing PeaceHealth won’t offer her the same pay as her colleagues in the hospital. 

“We keep people at home to heal and not to return to the hospital. If PeaceHealth really looked at that, it saves them a lot of money,” Grace said. “From my perspective, it’s also more in line with patient goals. People don’t want to be in the hospital.” 

‘We’re not replaceable’

Home care nurses started their strike at 7 a.m. Feb. 10. They picketed outside the home care headquarters at PeaceHealth Riverbend Annex on 123 International Way in Springfield. 

Throughout the strike, they were joined by community members, state lawmakers, and other unions, who marched in solidarity with the nurses. Teamsters members who make deliveries to the Annex building refused to cross the picket line to drop off packages. 

PeaceHealth hired strikebreakers to temporarily replace nurses during the strike. The strikebreakers never went to the Annex building, and PeaceHealth sent extra supplies ahead of the strike to the hotels where the workers stayed. Grace said she was frustrated that her employer seemed to be protecting replacement workers from the picket line, even though they send her into unsafe environments as part of her job. 

“I’ve been in patients’ homes with guns … sitting on the table. Or a patient might have not stabilized mental health issues, and we go,” Grace said. “I felt like, why would you protect them and not us, when I’ve worked here for 18 years and I’m part of your community.” 

ONA spokesperson Kevin Mealy added that some of the strikebreakers left after just two days of work. Managers who filled in for nurses during the strike took time off as soon as workers returned. Other workers in the home care program have told nurses that PeaceHealth managers started sending home health patients to other agencies, and Bristol Hospice Eugene received more new patients than normal. 

“The people who tried to do the work in the place of these nurses, some of them immediately quit and some of them had to take vacation immediately afterwards, and even still there’s reports that patient care standards were not as high as we had hoped,” Mealy said. “That’s fairly telling as to the irreplaceable nature of ONA nurses.”   


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