Hospital workers in Bend entered their third day of a labor strike Saturday, with negotiations scheduled to resume next week.
One-hundred-fifty medical tech workers represented by the Oregon Federation of Nursing and Health Professionals continue to walk the picket line calling on St. Charles Health System to increase wages. The health workers union claims St. Charles has not negotiated with the union since Dec. 3 when negotiations were canceled. The union also disputes administration reassurances that the hospital is running normally during the strike.
This comes as union leaders say the hospital has delayed negotiating a first contract for the employees after unionizing 18 months ago.
“We would like to go back to work to support our patients, but the hospital won’t even negotiate with us,” DeeDee Schumacher, a 40-year employee at St. Charles said. “It should be their top priority to keep the hospital in working order, so it is baffling why they would force a strike and do nothing to bring it to an end.”
Lawmakers and community leaders like U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Oregon, and State Rep. Jason Kropf, D-Bend, have shown support for the workers.
In an emailed statement, Merkley said hospital workers make a great case that they are being underpaid, and he supports their efforts for better wages.
“They have put their lives on the line in the last year for the benefit of the whole community. I strongly support their efforts to organize with OFNHP - [American Federation of Teachers] AFT Local 5017 for a fair, multi-year contract that recognizes their skills and contributions to the health of the community,” Merkley said in an emailed statement.
St. Charles President Aaron Adams on Friday said the health system is doing what it can to resolve the situation and end the strike to welcome back caregivers. For now, the hospital will be contracting with dozens of replacement workers to keep the hospital running throughout the strike, according to Adams
This is the first-time hospital workers at St. Charles have walked off the job since 1980 when nurses represented by another union walked off.
Representatives from the hospital and the union are scheduled to meet on March 10.