More than 1,300 health care workers at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center in Vancouver and PeaceHealth St. John Medical Center in Longview, both in Washington, began a strike on Monday.
In a statement Sunday, the Oregon Federation of Nurses & Health Professionals said technical, maintenance and laboratory workers that it represents are picketing over staff shortages, low wages and “anti-union attacks.”
The strike will last until Saturday and workers could picket again later, according to The Columbian.
Jonathan Baker, union chapter president and a lab worker at St. John Medical Center, said the company has not provided acceptable fixes for overworked and underpaid staff.
“Instead of trying to solve these problems, they canceled our bargaining sessions and are choosing (to) terminate the health care insurance that these workers depend on,” Baker said in a written statement. “This is a cruel form of collective punishment directed at a group of health care workers they previously called ‘heroes’ when they were saving lives during the COVID-19 pandemic.”
The union has accused PeaceHealth of threatening to cut off health insurance for workers if the strike lasts into November, a fact confirmed earlier this month by PeaceHealth.
Picketing began at 6:30 a.m. Monday outside the medical centers in Longview and Vancouver.
In a statement, PeaceHealth said it is “deeply disappointed” in the strike decision and that it does not expect any disruption in patient care.
“We remain committed to good-faith bargaining in order to reach an agreement that is competitive, fair and provides total reward enhancements for our caregivers,” the company said on its website.
The company said it has taken “responsible steps” to ensure patients continue to receive care throughout the strike, including assigning non-union staff to fill in positions. Union officials accused the company of also offering $8,000 a week to some strike-breaking workers.
Monday’s strike will not be the first time PeaceHealth has seen workers demonstrate in recent years. In 2021, nurses rallied at PeaceHealth Southwest over low wages, and workers at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Eugene picketed during their work breaks to protest their pay.