In an historic election, caregivers at Providence Portland Medical Center voted to unite in SEIU Local 49 and win a strong voice for quality care.
“This is an important step forward for patient care at Providence,” said Mohan Varghese, a certified nursing assistant at PPMC. “We’ve seen the administration losing focus on our mission of providing compassionate care to all, but now we have a voice to ensure that we’re providing high-quality care to every patient.”
The 800 Providence caregivers span over 60 job classifications at PPMC, ranging from certified nursing assistants to emergency department techs and from housekeepers to dietary workers. They are now united with more than 14,000 other workers in SEIU Local 49, which represents healthcare workers at Kaiser Permanente, PeaceHealth, and Legacy Health Services.
The election was held over two days in December, 2018, but the outcome of the election was not immediately clear as a number of ballots were under dispute and remained uncounted until this week.
The PPMC caregivers launched their organizing effort over concerns that Providence, a Catholic nonprofit, has devoted too few resources to patient care and put too much emphasis on growth and executive pay. Last year, top Providence CEO Rod Hochman received more than $10 million in total compensation.
Faith leaders from across Portland also lent their support to the Providence workers. More than 30 faith leaders signed a letter to management asking them to respect workers’ freedom to seek a “just and fair workplace” by forming a union.
The workers at PPMC join a growing movement of caregivers at Providence who are uniting to protect patient care across the system. Nearly 200 workers at Providence Milwaukie Hospital voted to join SEIU Local 49 in June. Last year, over 800 workers at Kadlec Medical Center in Richland, Washington, voted to join SEIU Healthcare 1199NW.
“It’s incredibly powerful to see what caregivers can accomplish when they come together and know that they now have a strong voice in the care they provide,” said Meg Niemi, President of SEIU Local 49. “Providence caregivers have shown incredible commitment to making sure Providence reflects its core value of respect for the employees who work there, and forming their union is the first step in getting there.”