Nurses authorize strike at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Nurses in Oregon could hit the picket lines, after nurses voted overwhelmingly to allow a strike at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center — citing unfair labor practices.

According to the Oregon Nurses Association, the strike authorization vote passed overwhelmingly late Wednesday night, after several months of mounting tensions.

Rebecca Sudduth, 17, an emergency room nurse from Providence St. Vincent, told KOIN 6 News that voting yes to strike was an easy decision after seeing several co-workers quit amid the pandemic.

“It’s been pretty exciting to come together and see everyone find their voice, especially as we’ve come out of the pandemic,” Sudduth said. “And we’re not asking for the moon and the stars, we’re not asking for anything crazy. And that’s kind of where it felt like an easy yes.

Among the list of contract proposals, Providence’s 1,600 nurses represented by the ONA are calling for higher patient safety standards, more nurses, affordable health care and fair compensation that allows hospitals to “recruit and retain » more nurses.

“Providence has made a lot of money over the past two years,” said Myrna Jensen, communications specialist for the Oregon Nurses Association. “And the nurses want to make sure there are enough nurses to take care of the patients.”

Although Providence said it was saddened that the situation had escalated to this point, the hospital told KOIN 6 News that it continued to advocate for a federal mediator to be at the bargaining table to help. all parties to find common ground. A request they claim the ONA has continued to deny.

“Talking definitely solves more than walking,” said Jennifer Burrows, executive director of Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. “And we want to make sure we have a dialogue and come to a resolution.”

According to Providence, their latest three-year contract proposal includes a 9.5% salary increase for all nurses in the first year.

Although the ONA and the hospital have not yet reached an agreement, negotiation sessions are planned in the coming days.

The two sides told KOIN 6 News they hope to reach an agreement before the nurses leave.

“We hope that we will not come to a strike. We want to take care of our patients,” Sudduth said. “We don’t want surgeries being canceled and that sort of thing. Absolutely not. It’s hard for everyone. »

Although the vote was cleared on Wednesday, the ONA told KOIN 6 News that no strike has yet been set and they are ready to negotiate. If a strike were to occur, the Association would give Providence 10 days notice to give the hospital enough time to prepare for the loss of staff.

If the nurses choose to strike, Providence told KOIN 6 News they were supposed to hire temporary replacement staff and would not close the hospital. However, officials said they hoped it would not come to that.

“When we get to a place where our nurses feel it’s more important to walk, we really need to have a dialogue and a mediator,” Burrows said. “That’s what’s needed at this point for us to get a resolution. It’s more meaningful to have a mediator than to have an additional conflict.