(Springfield, OR)—Healthcare workers at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center in Riverbend and University District overwhelmingly voted to approve a new 3-year union contract with hospital management on Friday, July 19. The hospital workers, who are members of SEIU Local 49, stood united during months of negotiations to win strong yearly raises; increased differentials and incentive pay to help staff hard-to-fill shifts; a stronger voice in hospital staffing; increased tuition reimbursement; and more affordable healthcare.
The hospital workers include certified nursing assistants, housekeepers, ER techs, imaging techs, sterile processing techs, respiratory therapists, dietary workers, patient registration, and more. This was the second contract union members negotiated with Sacred Heart management since voting to unionize in 2015.
“We made huge improvements to our healthcare benefits in our first contract. This time, we were able to make progress on staffing by doubling the number of certified nursing assistants on the nursing staffing committee from one to two,” said Hollie Murphy, a certified nursing assistant at the Riverbend hospital. Following these negotiations, Sacred Heart Medical Center will be the first hospital in Oregon that has more than one certified nursing assistant on a staffing committee, adding an additional critical voice to ensuring quality patient care and employee safety.
Caregivers also won strong yearly wage increases, totaling nearly 10% in guaranteed raises over the life of the contract. Including step increases, some union members may earn significantly higher percentage increases by the end of the contract.
“The wage increases we negotiated will really make a difference in my ability to make ends meet,” said Anna Blackman, a certified nursing assistant at the Riverbend campus. “Right now, I make $23.64 per hour. By the end of our contract, I’ll be earning $26.95, which is 14% more than I do now. I’m really proud of what we were able to accomplish.”
Union members were also able to secure language in their new contract that puts the hospital in compliance with a new charity care and community benefit that was signed into Oregon law this June. Championed by SEIU Local 49, HB 3076 guarantees financial assistance at nonprofit hospitals and clinics depending on the patient’s income.
SEIU Local 49 members reached a tentative agreement with management early on Wednesday, July 17, just hours before a planned informational picket that was to be held outside the hospital. Sacred Heart members were to be joined by community supporters and SEIU members at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield who are also in contract negotiations with their hospital management.
“Healthcare workers in Lane County have a strong commitment to providing quality patient care in our community. We’ve been fighting for fair contracts at our hospitals so we can protect our patients by advocating for more staffing and improved conditions throughout our facilities,” said Lorie Quinn, a housekeeper at the Riverbend hospital. “We also need to earn enough to make a good living so we can take care of ourselves and our families. At Sacred Heart, we stood together to make that happen, and we’ll continue to stand in solidarity with healthcare workers fighting for good jobs and quality care.”
“Caregivers at Sacred Heart Medical Center came together as a union and took a stand for better jobs and better care, and it paid off,” said SEIU Local 49 President Meg Niemi. “This union contract will increase the front-line voice in patient care. The wage increases are the best caregivers have received in the hospital in over two decades and will help retain highly qualified and experienced staff. Since all hospital employees in Lane County deserve good jobs and a voice in patient care, we look forward to achieving an equally beneficial contract at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center.”
SEIU Local 49 represents more than 15,000 healthcare and building service workers, including licensed practical nurses (LPN’s), 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 health care workers.