After Successful Two-Day Unfair Labor Practice Strike, McKenzie-Willamette Healthcare Workers Plan 7am Return to Work

Backed by the elected leaders and the community, healthcare workers prepare for the next steps in winning a contract that protects patient care and good jobs in Springfield.

Springfield, OR – Healthcare workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center who are members of SEIU Local 49 are preparing to go back to work after a successful two-day unfair labor practice strike at the hospital. Workers have alleged that management has bargained in bad faith, failed to turn over information requests, and made unilateral changes.

SEIU 49 members are currently working under an expired contract, and are concerned that hospital management will push ahead with plans to outsource 100 workers in the housekeeping, dietary, and linen departments without bargaining in good faith with the union.

On the strike line, workers expressed frustration with management’s unfair labor practices and their refusal to meet their demands for safe staffing; COVID protections that include hazard pay and more paid time off for COVID-related absences; keeping their healthcare benefits affordable; and to stop its plans to outsource dedicated employees.

“People ask ‘how can you strike at a time like this?’ and I say, ‘how can we NOT strike at a time like this?’” said Emily Gordon, an endoscopy tech at the hospital. “We need safe staffing, and we need to be paid better so people don’t leave to work at other hospitals.”

Addressing the crowd at a rally on the strike line, dietary worker Kristi Green stood with her coworkers, all of whom are slated to be outsourced by hospital management later this month. Kristi has worked at the hospital since she was 17 years old, and is “devastated” that she and her coworkers who feed patients will no longer be employed by McKenzie-Willamette if management moves forward with their plans to outsource. “Together, we  have over 100 years of experience at this hospital, and it’s super crappy to be outsourced,” she said. “This is my family.”

The hospital’s proposal to raise the cost of healthcare benefits for workers by 27% is particularly concerning for workers, especially with the heightened healthcare needs that the COVID pandemic presents.

“The health insurance is my major issue. I already have medications that I need but don’t use because I can’t afford them,” said Kimberly Craig, a lab assistant who has worked at the hospital for two years. “I put my son on my policy recently because his company doesn’t offer insurance, and my insurance went up to over $200. I can’t afford to pay more for our health care. I’ve had so much medical debt in the past that it’s changed how I think about getting care.”

SEIU members were joined by a host of elected officials, union leaders, and community members including Congressman Peter DeFazio, Sen. James Manning, Rep. Julie Fahey, Labor Commissioner Val Hoyle, Rep. John Lively, Commissioner Laurie Trieger, Springfield City Councilor Leonard Stoeh, Eugene City Councilor Matt Keating, and Lane County Commissioner Heather Buch–all of whom expressed their resolute support for the striking hospital workers.

“Going on strike and seeing the amount of community and political support is really empowering to myself and the rest of our members, knowing that we’re not in this alone,” said Aaron Green, a Certified Nursing Assistant 2. “Our community and all of our members still continue to ask the hospital to protect us, respect us and pay us, and provide us with the basic rights that we should have as employees. Affordable healthcare, and wages that are competitive with the local market so we can retain employees and continue to provide high quality care to our patients.”

Currently, there are no confirmed additional bargaining dates scheduled, but workers are hoping to meet with management at the bargaining table as soon as next week to settle a fair contract that protects patients and good jobs in Springfield.

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