McKenzie-Willamette Healthcare Caregivers Take a Stand for Patient and Worker Safety and Win

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Healthcare workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center who are members of SEIU Local 49 voted overwhelmingly to approve a settlement with McKenzie-Willamette management on a new Union contract. The nearly 300 workers—including ER Techs, Pharmacy Techs, Certified Nursing Assistants, Respiratory Therapists, Physical Therapists, Radiologic Technologist, Surgical Techs, Phlebotomists, Social Workers and Operating Room Custodians — were united in their commitment to raise staffing and safety standards, improve healthcare for patients and employees, increase wages, and receive pandemic protections.

Caregivers advocated for working conditions and pay that they believe will improve the staffing needed to provide quality patient care and help keep the community safe. Workers focused on gains that would help recruit quality, compassionate caregivers, and retain highly skilled and experienced staff, seeking recognition for their dedication and commitment to the community. In doing so, caregivers created pathways to higher pay and respect at McKenzie-Willamette during a time when the healthcare field is seeing a shortage in workers due to exhaustion and turnover.

“We knew that bringing wages to a competitive level was necessary in order for McKenzie-Willamette to attract and retain highly-skilled staff,” says Aaron Green, CNA2 at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. “By taking direct action with our strikes we were able to settle a strong contract that will support workers with better wages, healthcare subsidies, and more funds in our training and education fund.”

 The hospital workers remained united and took action together throughout the year, culminating into two powerful strikes to show that they weren’t going to compromise on patient and worker safety. The two-year pandemic has stretched healthcare workers to near breaking points and workers across the country have said enough is enough by holding a series of strikes that went into high gear during “Striketober” and “Strikesgiving” – with McKenzie-Willamette workers holding strikes in October and December. The COVID pandemic has exposed the consequences of understaffing, turnover, and burnout on both workers and patients. Workers refused to back down and accept anything less than what they need to provide the quality care patients deserve.

“Patient safety and care begins with how well you care for your staff,” says Rachael Gordon, CNA2 at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. “When staff are cared for with things like COVID protections, market-rate wages, and healthcare that is affordable, then we are better able to focus on our patients, especially during this current surge.”

McKenzie-Willamette healthcare workers won wage increases that reflect the value of their contributions to our communities. The average wage increase over the life of the new three-year contract is nearly 22% (twenty-two percent). The average per hour increase over the life of the three-year contract is $6.07 per hour. Workers also won increased education and training funds, a COVID appreciation bonus, and a guaranteed 401K match.

Healthcare workers also spoke up to keep healthcare affordable for employees. Union members agreed to an increased premium subsidy program for employees and their families that is based on those whose annual salaries are less than $45,000.

“It was important that we remained firm on containing healthcare costs. We needed management to respect that workers often struggle with medical costs and that addressing this in our contract was a key priority for members,” says Mike Miller, Radiologic Technologist at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. “The premium subsidies will help a lot of folks to have affordable healthcare for themselves and their families.”

Although McKenzie-Willamette workers remain disappointed in Quorum management’s decision to use an outside contractor for housekeeping, dietary and linen work; HHS, the outsourcing company, has committed to bargain with the union members, and any staff who applied for positions with HHS were hired.

“The Springfield and Lane County community is fortunate to have such dedicated caregivers at McKenzie Willamette Medical Center. This past year the members of SEIU 49 at the hospital took a stand to defend quality care and good jobs in the community and made progress that will have a positive impact on the care they are able to deliver. This contract is a win for the community as well as employees,” says Meg Niemi, President, SEIU Local 49

McKenzie-Willamette healthcare workers remained dedicated to their communities in providing quality patient care throughout the COVID pandemic, placing themselves and their families at risk of contracting the deadly disease. Workers united to win a strong contract to address key priorities for safe staffing, fair and competitive wage increases, keeping healthcare costs contained, and covid protections.

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