Editor’s note: The Local 328 announced the impasse in negotiations on Wednesday, after this article was written. Due to the legally mandated notice period, a strike cannot begin until early October.
The members of AFSCME Local 328, a union representing about 7,000 workers at Oregon Health & Science University, have voted to authorize a strike.
Local 328 members are social workers, pharmacists, respiratory therapists, cleaners, and chaplains, among others and make up about a third of the hospital’s total workforce.
The central disagreement is over pay increases. The union is seeking a 24% across-the-board wage increase for its members, spread out over the course of three years. OHSU leaders have counter-offered a 12% wage increase over three years.
Workers are burned out, frustrated by the high wages paid to temporary contract workers, and struggling to pay for their own health care and necessities, said Sarah Curtis, a managed care coordinator and the vice president of Local 238.
“We want to be able to afford to live in the community that we work in,” she said. “We have to deal with the realities of inflation every time we go to the grocery store or fill up our gas tank.”
An OHSU spokesperson said the hospital is hopeful a strike can be avoided but respects the rights of employees to participate in lawful strike activity.
The authorization vote does not mean a strike is imminent.
Per state law, the union will give the hospital at least 37 days’ notice before any strike, according to OHSU.