Outsourced lab workers unionize


Workers at 12 Oregon and Washington medical labs voted May 1-3 to join Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals (OFNHP). The union votes came after Legacy Health System outsourced the operation of its medical labs to Lab Corporation of America (Labcorp).

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) held separate union votes for each of seven proposed bargaining units, with each unit consisting of one to four Legacy locations. In total, 312 workers voted for the union and 49 against. Workers in all seven units voted to unionize, bringing 435 lab workers into OFNHP. Only one subset of workers at the smallest location, Legacy Silverton Medical Center, rejected the union; there, separate votes were held among “professional” and “non-professional” workers (categories that are determined by federal labor law) and the non-professional workers voted 6-1 to stay non-union.

Medical technologist Meagan Hollis works at Legacy Good Samaritan, but she has been an employee of Labcorp since July, when Legacy contracted Labcorp to run its labs. Based in North Carolina, LabCorp is a publicly traded corporation with more than 67,000 employees worldwide and $12.2 billion in revenue last year.

Hollis says that was the second time in seven years that her workplace was outsourced. The first time, she was transferred from a union to a non-union location. 

“The union facility had guaranteed raises, paid time off, more job security that the non-union lab did not have,” Hollis said. 

At the time Legacy announced it was outsourcing, lab techs at Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin had already started talking about joining OFNHP, the same union that represents the other non-nursing staff in their building. Meridian Park lab workers contacted colleagues at other Legacy-owned, Labcorp-run locations. 

Hollis said the vote sends a message. “We want to win a contract together. It’s, ‘no site left behind.’” 

Kayleigh Sisson, a phlebotomist at Legacy Woodburn Health Center, helped organize her lab. Leading up to the vote, Labcorp held 90-minute “captive audience” meetings where union busters hired by the company tried to convince workers not to unionize. Sisson said union supporters stuck together during the meetings and fact checked presenters. That solidarity carried over into the elections when workers attended vote counts at other labs to cheer on their colleagues. 

“They did the count for the biggest location first, and when we had 80 yeses already, I got goosebumps,” Sisson said. “It’s finally our chance to have a voice.” 

OFNHP spokesperson Shane Burley said health care employers may outsource work as a tactic to diminish workers’ power. Workers prefer to form wall-to-wall unions because it gives them more leverage at the bargaining table. 

“(This) sends a lesson to hospitals that workers are going to unionize, even if you sell out pieces of it,” Burley said. 


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