More than 300 McKenzie-Willamette hospital workers strike again over safety concerns, pay

·2 min read
In this Oct. 10 photo, health care workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield walk a picket line outside the hospital after calling for a strike.
In this Oct. 10 photo, health care workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield walk a picket line outside the hospital after calling for a strike.

More than 300 workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield walked out again Monday for a five-day strike.

Workers, represented by workers union SEIU 49, said they are protesting the hospital not addressing ongoing safety concerns and other issues such as low pay leading to consistent staff turnover through the pandemic.

SEIU 49 represents about 400 of McKenzie-Willamette's healthcare workers including certified nursing assistants, MRI technicians, respiratory therapists and pharmacy technicians.

"McKenzie-Willamette remains focused on patient care and supporting our community," hospital spokesperson Jana Waterman said in a statement.

"We will implement our contingency plan, including additional staffing, and hospital operations will continue uninterrupted."

Waterman said that no appointments will be delayed or canceled due to the strike, and operations will continue as normal.

"All inpatient, outpatient, and emergency services will be available throughout the strike period," she said. "We worked with a national temporary staffing service to secure more than 30 staff."

It is scheduled to be a five-day strike with people not returning to work until Saturday morning, said Aaron Green, who works as a certified nurse aid and was on the picket line Monday.

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"We are on this five-day strike... because we are advocating for our patients, and wanting quality care for them," Rachael Gordon, also a certified nurse aid, said.

Gordon said this strike will affect the hospital's ability to care for patients this week.

"Everyone provides their portion of care for these patients. In order to obtain the proper quality care, you will need us members back inside the building," Gordon said.

This is the second strike the employees have held recently. The first came in October, when more than 400 workers walked out for a two-day strike over similar issues.

The hospital and SEIU 49 have been negotiating their main contract since the summer. They have also been bargaining with the hospital since spring over certain positions being outsourced.

The key issues the workers are arguing for, according to a union statement, are:

  • Increased wages to keep up with rates at other medical centers in the community and state and to halt turnover.

  • "Lack of affordable healthcare and lack of adequate COVID protections (that) may be creating serious safety risks for both workers and patients."

"We're proposing significant increases to the wages, but the problem is we can't retain people by the quality of care that these patients deserve, because we're so far behind in the market," Green said.

Waterman, the hospital spokesperson, said the hospital did offer proposals to include "generous wage increases and market adjustments for several positions."

"The SEIU denied the proposals to increase wages and is conducting a strike this week," she said.

Contact reporter Jordyn Brown at jbrown@registerguard.com or 541-246-4264, and follow her on Twitter @thejordynbrown and Instagram @registerguard. Support local journalism, subscribe to The Register-Guard.

This article originally appeared on Register-Guard: McKenzie-Willamette workers strike over safety concerns, pay

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