PORTLAND, Ore. — Frontline nurses at two more Providence hospitals within the greater Portland area have voted to authorize a strike, according to a statement from the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) released Thursday night.
This development means that nurses at Providence Milwaukie Hospital and Providence Willamette Falls Medical Center now join their colleagues at Providence St. Vincent in strike authorization, the latter having voted to strike in May.
“There’s a patient care crisis at Providence. Every day, nurses are forced to care for twice as many patients as is considered safe," said nurse Peggy Elia, ONA executive committee president at Providence Milwaukie. "We’re standing up for Oregonians and striking for safety. We won’t settle for anything less. Oregon patients and their families deserve safe, high-quality, affordable and accessible health care.”
According to ONA, the votes passed "near-unanimously." Between the three hospitals, more than 2,000 nurses have voted to authorize a strike within the last month. The St. Vincent contingent makes up the largest share of those nurses, by far.
The union's position is that Providence has engaged in unfair labor practices, and nurses are demanding fair contracts that will improve patient care, raise nurse staffing standards, make healthcare more affordable and seek to address the company's staffing shortfalls.
“I take pride in being a nurse. I do my best every day to provide excellent care in the face of adversity and I strive to bring comfort and healing to my patients and their families, even in their darkest hour," said nurse Virginia Smith, ONA executive committee president at Providence Willamette Falls. "I shouldn't have to fight this hard to ensure our nurses are taken care of too. It’s time for Providence to prove it cares for its caregivers.”
Providence released a statement on Thursday night, saying that the company intended to continue working toward a deal with ONA on contracts:
"While we think it is premature and are disappointed by ONA’s strike authorization votes, we are eager to continue dialogue with ONA as we work to find mutually agreeable solutions. Since contracts are settled at the bargaining table, we encourage the union to avoid a costly strike for our nurses.
"It’s important to note that if an actual strike is called at any of Providence’s Portland area hospitals, we will turn all of our attention to preparing to serve our patients and return to negotiations after the strike. Continued access to high-quality care remains our highest priority.
"We have a comprehensive plan that ensures the delivery of that care to the communities who rely on us, even if nurses choose to walk out. Our hope is that everyone will continue to bargain in good faith.
"Talking solves more than walking."
ONA nurses' contracts expired at St. Vincent and Providence Willamette Falls in 2021, while the Providence Milwaukie contract expired in May.
Despite having authorized a strike weeks ago, the St. Vincent contingent has yet to move forward with that threat. ONA must give Providence a 10-day notice before any organized work stoppage, giving administrators time to halt admissions and transfer patients or agree to a deal, as required by Oregon's Employment Relations Board.