PORTLAND, Ore. — The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) announced that nurses have voted to authorize a strike. The update came during a news conference late Monday morning following months of negotiations that resulted in a stalemate between Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) and the union.
The authorization vote gives union leaders the right to declare a strike, but it does not necessarily mean nurses will go on strike. If nurses do go on strike, they would have to give the hospital a 10-day notice before one starts.
OHSU and the ONA have been in negotiations since December 2022. The nurse's current contract expired on June 30, 2023. In August, the union declared an impasse, meaning the two sides had reached a stalemate in negotiations. At that point, the two sides entered into a 30-day cooling off period and began to work with a mediator.
According to a release sent by ONA, nurses want a contract that improves workplace safety, sets safe staffing ratios, provides incentives that will retain nurses and recruit highly skilled ones, maintains appropriate staffing levels and gives them the "opportunity to reopen negotiations if the acquisition of Legacy Health System is finalized."
OHSU has offered wages with increases of 15% in the first year, 5.5% in the second and 5% in the third, according to a Monday statement from the hospital system. They also pledged to meet or exceed state-required staffing ratios by June 1, 2024, make investments in safety measures and offered a "one-time ratification payment" of up to $10,000. Full details of OHSU's final offer can be found on the state Employment Relations Board website.
Many of the more than three thousand nurses with OHSU showed up to a rally Monday morning at Elizabeth Caruthers Park on the South Waterfront. That includes oncology nurse Duncan Zevetski.
"If I have to spend my entire night trying to keep people alive I don't get to spend time with them in a meaningful way I don't get to have that emotional connection," said Zevetski.
"OHSU values our longstanding partnership with the Oregon Nurses Association, and thanks the ONA bargaining team for their collaboration in helping reach tentative agreements on many issues," the hospital system said in part. "ONA-represented employees voted on whether to authorize a strike Sept. 6 through Sept. 17. It is important to note that this is a normal part of the bargaining process: A strike has not been declared, might not be declared and OHSU and ONA continue to bargain."
A spokesperson with the Oregon Nurses Association said that representatives with OHSU have reached out to them saying they would like to start up talks again.
The last time nurses at OHSU went on strike was in 2001, and that strike lasted 56 days.