The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) says it filed an unfair labor practice against St. Charles, claiming that management from the hospital system illegally spied on nurses who were gathering on their own time. St. Charles calls the allegations “simply false.”
It stems from an event on March 21. ONA says nurses had a gathering outside the Bend hospital that the union described as “peaceful.”
ONA says about 70 nurses met, on their own time, to deliver this letter to St. Charles executives. The letter was signed by more than 750 St. Charles Bend nurses outlining their contract negotiation priorities. But the nurses were prevented from entering the hospital’s administrative offices and the hospital called security, ONA claims.
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It was during a nurse meetup outside the hospital that ONA claims witnesses saw St. Charles managers leaving the hospital to watch what the nurses were doing. ONA claims St. Charles managers appeared to take photos and video of the nurses who were at the meetup.
“It’s illegal, plain and simple, to record workers who are on their own time engaging in union activities or even to appear to record workers on their own time engaging in union activities,” said ONA spokesman Kevin Mealy. The union says such surveillance violates the National Labor Relations Act.
“We know that hospitals in the past have used this as a scare tactic to prevent nurses from speaking out,” Mealy added.
The ONA says contract negotiations have been going on between nurses and the hospital since December 2022.
Mealy says one of the concerns of the union is staffing. He says St. Charles was understaffed by about 300 nurses in December and has been filling the gaps with traveling nurses on short-term contracts. But Mealy says some of the travel nursing contracts have been cut recently.
Mealy said the nurses were eventually able to get the letter to the chief nursing officer, who was not the intended recipient.
St. Charles released this statement late Friday, denying the allegations:
“Providing safe, quality care is our top priority every day,” said Julie Ostrom, service line administrator for surgical and trauma services and a member of the St. Charles bargaining team. “We are committed to negotiating with our nurses in good faith and believe those negotiations should take place at the bargaining table and not in the press. These allegations, along with many assertions in the ONA’s press release, are simply false. It is our hope that we can take these conversations back to the bargaining table where they belong, while continuing to support our incredible teams who provide phenomenal, compassionate care.”