In the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center Workers Say Management is Failing Patients and Workers
Who: McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center workers who are members of SEIU Local 49
What: Unfair Labor Practice strike by McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center healthcare workers who are members of SEIU Local 49
Where: McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, 1460 G St, Springfield, OR 97477
When: Workers will be on strike beginning 6am Tuesday, Oct. 5 until 7am Thursday, Oct. 7. Members will be on the strike line from 6am – 8pm on Oct. 5 and 6. Workers will walk out at 6am and will be available for interviews.
Springfield, OR – At McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, over 400 frontline healthcare workers including housekeepers, certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and more are going on an unfair labor practice strike.
Workers allege unfair labor practices by the hospital, saying that management is interfering with their rights as union members. The members of SEIU Local 49 are working to settle a new union contract with management that includes safe staffing, fair wages, COVID protections, and keeps good jobs at the hospital.
The workers are also striking because they believe that understaffing, high-turnover, low wages, lack of affordable healthcare and lack of adequate COVID protections – all matters they are bargaining over – may be creating serious safety risks for both workers and patients.
With healthcare workers on the frontlines of a deadly pandemic that shows no sign of slowing down, McKenzie-Willamette’s management has ignored their safety concerns, refused to offer competitive wages or COVID hazard bonuses and proposed charging workers 27% more for healthcare over three years – all while receiving $4.5 million in CARES act bailout funds.
Management is also moving forward with plans to outsource nearly 100 workers in the dietary, housekeeping, and linen departments to a Texas based staffing company–an unfortunate move because outsourcing has been linked to increased incidence of infections. Recent research from Cornell University found that hospitals that outsourced their cleaners reported nearly twice as many patients contracting potentially deadly C. diff. during their hospital stayi.
“This is the first place I’ve ever worked. I’ve been here since I was 17 years old. My grandmother worked here, and this hospital is part of my family story,” said Kristi Green, a dietary technician at the hospital. “It’s a slap in the face that this company would choose to outsource so many of us after everything we’ve done to make this hospital great.”
“As healthcare workers, we care deeply about our patients and providing the best care, and I’m so angry that management is treating us unfairly,” said Gypsy Smith, a housekeeper at the hospital. “Going on strike is the most difficult decision many of us have had to make, especially with COVID. But ultimately we’re doing this to protect our patients and make sure we have the resources we need to do our jobs safely.”
After months of bargaining, McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center healthcare workers and management remain divided on key issues. McKenzie management should stop engaging in the alleged unfair labor practices and agree to a contract that protects patients and workers, stop outsourcing and limit it in the future, agree to healthcare benefits that workers can afford, provide living wages and benefits to help recruit and retain workers, and recognize their dedication and commitment through this pandemic.
Workers are united in their campaign to keep the Springfield community safe and continuing to provide quality patient care.
McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center is one of only two Oregon for-profit hospitals and is owned by Tennessee-based corporation Quorum Health Corp. Quorum Health Corp received a total of $19 million in CARES Act funding, with McKenzie-Willamette receiving $4.5 million of these bailout funds. There’s no reason the hospital with these resources should be looking to hire an outside company to manage these critical functions that directly impact patient care.
Essential workers are standing united in their message to McKenzie-Willamette management to “Respect Us, Protect Us, and Pay Us” – the rallying cry of frontline workers around the world.
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SEIU Local 49 represents more than 15,000 healthcare and building service workers, including licensed practical nurses (LPN’s), certified nursing assistants, professional and technical workers, pharmacists, dietary aides, and housekeepers in Oregon and Southwest Washington. We are a member of Service Employees International Union, the nation’s largest union of healthcare workers. For more information visit: www.seiu49.org