PORTLAND, Ore. — Nurses at two Portland area Providence hospitals will begin holding strike authorization votes on Monday. If passed, the votes will not automatically trigger a strike, but they will authorize the nurses' bargaining teams to call a strike amid negotiations with Providence.
The votes involve 233 frontline nurses at Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center and 239 frontline nurses at Providence Milwaukie Hospital, according to a press release from the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), the union that represents the nurses.
The vote will continue until June 3. Nurses at another Portland area hospital, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center, voted to authorize a strike on May 3. ONA represents 1,600 nurses at St. Vincent.
ONA's contracts with St. Vincent and Willamette Falls expired last year, and the contract at Milwaukie expires later this month.
The union said its efforts at bargaining table negotiations have focused on the following list:
- Stronger patient safety standards to reduce future COVID-19 outbreaks and ensure the highest standards of care for all Oregonians.
- Safe nurse staffing to ensure high-quality care and patient access.
- Affordable health care and paid leave so frontline nurses can seek care after COVID-19 exposures and afford health care for their own families.
- A fair compensation package that allows hospitals to recruit and retain the skilled frontline caregivers our communities need to stay healthy and safe.
"Frontline nurses have invested in Providence with our blood, sweat, tears and our dollars. Now we're demanding Providence invest in our communities and put those profits to work as intended," ONA President Lynda Pond said in a statement. "It's time for Providence to listen to nurses and reinvest in patient safety, safe staffing, and caregiver retention to improve health care for all Oregonians."
If the strike votes pass, ONA leaders will plan their next steps, which would include setting potential strike dates, the union said. The union will provide Providence with 10 days' notice before striking.
The next bargaining sessions for the Willamette Falls union team are scheduled for May 25 and June 3. The next bargaining sessions for the Milwaukie union team are May 26, June 16 and June 23.
In a statement, Providence Milwaukie called the strike vote "disappointing and premature" because the hospital has only held three bargaining sessions with the union so far. The hospital also said it would be able to maintain operations in the event that a strike takes place.
Providence Willamette Falls issued a separate but similar statement, mentioning that it was disappointed by the strike authorization vote and asserted that it would maintain operations and access to care for patients during a strike. Willamette Falls has had 17 bargaining sessions with the union since September 2021, according to the statement.
Willamette Falls said its contract offer includes average pay increases of 7.75% in the first year and additional increases in years two and three. Milwaukie said it has across the board increases averaging 6.76%.