Possible merger, safety drive unionization effort at Legacy Health

By Ryan Haas (OPB)
PORTLAND, Ore. Sept. 29, 2023 7:18 p.m.
FILE - Protesting nurses gathered on the street corner in front of the Legacy Good Samaritan emergency department on July 29, 2023, to demonstrate against violence in health care settings.

FILE - Protesting nurses gathered on the street corner in front of the Legacy Good Samaritan emergency department on July 29, 2023, to demonstrate against violence in health care settings.

Amelia Templeton / OPB

The Oregon Nurses Association announced Friday that roughly 250 staff at Legacy Health are considering unionizing ahead of a proposed merger with Oregon Health & Science University.

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Doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants filed union authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board on Friday.

Legacy Health is a large care provider in Oregon and has faced financial issues in recent years.

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Legacy truly needs our help running the hospital and fixing its many systemic issues. Forming a union gives us the best means to do so,” Dr. Rob Morgan, an internal medicine physician at Legacy, said in a statement.

The unionization effort includes staff at:

  • Legacy Good Samaritan Medical Center in Portland
  • Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland
  • Randall Children’s Hospital at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in Portland
  • Legacy Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland
  • Legacy Meridian Park Medical Center in Tualatin
  • Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham
  • Legacy Silverton Medical Center in Silverton
  • Legacy Salmon Creek Medical Center in Vancouver, Washington

The Oregon Nurses Association said in its announcement that patient care and safety are top motivators for the unionization effort, but also pointed out that a controversial decision to close a birthing center in Gresham and the killing of a hospital security guard factored into the decision.

The health system also recently proposed a merger with Oregon Health & Science University. In August, the health systems announced they had signed a non-binding letter of intent that would put Legacy’s hospitals and facilities under management of OHSU. Gaining input over that proposal is another potential factor for Legacy’s union drive

On Tuesday, staff at OHSU reached a tentative contract deal ahead of a strike that gives their unionized staff the right to bargain over potential impacts of the merger.

Legacy staff will consult with the National Labor Relations Board in the coming weeks to schedule a potential unionization vote. Staffers backing the unionization effort aim to be represented by the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association.

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