Nurses and clinicians who work for Providence Health in Portland and Seaside authorized plans over the weekend to move forward with a strike.
Around 1,800 health care workers completed voting for three separate strikes on Sunday. In a statement, the health care workers’ union said the votes for all three strikes were “near unanimous,” though the organization did not release specifics.
The Oregon Nurses Association said the strike authorization was approved at Providence Portland, Providence Seaside, and Providence Home Health and Hospice.
The health care workers said they are overburdened with high case loads and are not able to provide safe care for patients, an issue that has been widespread across the health care industry since the worst days of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Enough is enough. The fact that an overwhelming number of nurses and clinicians voted yes shows that we know our worth‚” said Richard Botterill, a registered nurse and bargaining unit chair for Providence Portland, in the group’s statement. “We’re tired of the lip service from Providence. We’ve told them for years that we need a wage and benefit package that recruits and retains experienced staff.”
In reply, officials with Providence said they have negotiated contracts with the workers in good faith since fall and have offered “market-competitive proposals.” Providence said their offers have included “double-digit percentage wage increases” in the first year of the contract, as well as eight weeks of paid short-term disability leave.
“As we’ve said before, we believe that talking solves more than walking. The Providence bargaining teams are eager to continue dialogue with ONA as they work tirelessly toward new contracts for their caregivers,” Providence spokesperson Jean Marks wrote in a statement.
Nurses and clinicians who voted for the strike authorizations said they would like to see the large health system do more to reduce case loads at its facilities, though the company said its current proposals should help it recruit more people. .
“Above all, home health and hospice clinicians are fighting for working conditions that allow us to provide safe patient care,” said Sharon Barbosa, a nurse with Providence Home Health and Hospice. “Providence increased our caseloads up to 70% in the middle of a global pandemic.”
Nurses at St. Charles Health in Central Oregon also recently authorized a strike over similar concerns about understaffing and patient safety. Health care workers and administrators there are in negotiations this week to avoid the strike.
The Providence strike authorization votes give the health care provider 10 days to address worker concerns before a strike is called and any walkout happens. Negotiations between the sides are ongoing.