St. Charles medical techs gave the hospital notice Monday they will strike in 10 days after the two sides were unable to agree on a contract.
“Management has been unwilling to agree to common-sense proposals that can help both staff and patients, and this is our last resort to improve the conditions at the hospital,” said DeeDee Schumacher, an ultrasound technologist who has worked at St. Charles for 40 years. “We don’t want to strike and would rather continue working in our community, so we hope the hospital will avert this by settling a fair contract.”
According to a statement from Samuel Potter, a representative with the Oregon Nurses and Hospital Professionals union, the decision to strike comes following a year of negotiating a first union contract with St. Charles.
A year “where management refused to agree to fair wage and working condition proposals and is stalling on setting reasonable bargaining dates.”
In a statement, the hospital said it was disappointing to get the strike notice and said it planned to file an unfair labor practice charge of bad-faith bargaining with the National Labor Relations Board.
“While the surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few months has made it difficult to continue bargaining with full bargaining teams, we have invited OFNHP to provide a comprehensive response via email or over the phone. OFNHP has not chosen to do so,” said Rebecca Berry, vice president of Human Resources for St. Charles Health System. “If ONFHP believes that progress is not being made, it needs to look at its own decisions.
“We were concerned enough about the lack of progress that we suggested bringing in a federal mediator and OFNHP agreed. Now, OFNHP has issued a strike notice without ever meeting with a mediator even though it had already agreed to the specific date of March 10 for our next session. We don’t understand OFNHP’s strategy.”
The hospital said the two parties were in discussion with a federal mediator to see if new dates for bargaining could be set in addition to the March 10 date that is already scheduled.
The mediator offered dates on March 3, 4 or 5, which were under consideration when the strike notice was delivered, according to St. Charles.
Because OFNHP has chosen to strike, St. Charles will now be required to direct its time to strike preparation rather than negotiations and will be unable to meet during the notice period, according to the statement.
Earlier this month, members of the union held an “informational picket” outside the hospital.
“I want to get fair wages basically from the hospital,” said Frank Dewolf, an electrophysiology technologist at St. Charles. “I’ve been working here for over ten years now and my income hasn’t increased at all.”
Dewolf said he’s watched other hospitals around the state increase wages for jobs like his, but his own wage has stayed stagnant.
“It makes you feel unwanted,” Dewolf said.
The situation has “pushed these essential healthcare employees to take a stand so that they can gain living wages and a voice on the job, Potter said.
The union currently has more than 150 technicians, technologists and therapists and 95% voted in favor of authorizing the strike.
You can read the full statement from the ONHP below:Strike Press Release 2-22