McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center Union Members Reach Deal

SEIU 49 stike Dec. 6 2021 McKenzie Willamette Springfield Photo by Ben Botkin Lund Report.jpg

Union members prepare for a strike in the rain beneath a tent. Boxes filled with signs are in the foreground.

Health care workers at McKenzie Willamette Medical Center in Springfield overwhelmingly voted to approve a new contract, ending a protracted negotiations process that included two strikes, including a five-day work stoppage event in December.

Service Employees International Union Local 49 officials on Wednesday announced the new contract, which includes raises and matching 401(k) retirement contributions from the hospital. The union represents nearly 300 workers at the hospital, including emergency room technicians, pharmacy technicians, radiologic technologists, surgical technicians, phlebotomists, social workers and operating room custodians.

Hospital employees, in a statement issued by SEIU, said the gains in the contract were necessary so staff could provide quality patient care and recruit and retain quality caregivers and experienced staff. The bargaining unfolded against a larger backdrop of health care workforce shortages in Oregon as COVID-19 hammers hospitals and forces the industry to rely upon out-of-state temporary workers as human resources departments struggle to fill openings.

“Patient safety and care begins with how well you care for your staff,” said Rachael Gordon, a certified nursing assistant at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center, in a statement. “When staff are cared for with things like COVID protections, market-rate wages, and healthcare that is affordable, then we are better able to focus on our patients, especially during this current surge.”  

In an email, hospital spokesperson Jana Waterman said: “McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center is pleased to have reached an agreement for a three-year labor contract with the SEIU Local 49. We are committed to our mission to provide high-quality care for our community while supporting our team members.”

The three-year contract has average wage increases of nearly 22%, which averages an increase of $6.07 an hour across the life of the agreement. The contract also provides more funding for education and training  benefits, COVID-19 appreciation bonuses and a guaranteed 401(k) retirement match.

The contract also covers a great share of health care premium costs for workers who make less than $45,000 annually.  

“We needed management to respect that workers often struggle with medical costs and that addressing this in our contract was a key priority for members,” said Mike Miller, a radiologic technologist at the hospital, in a statement. 

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center is a for-profit hospital owned by Tennessee-based corporation Quorum Health Corp. 

The SEIU Local 49 represents more than 15,000 health care and building service workers in Oregon and southwest Washington. 

You can reach Ben Botkin at [email protected] or via Twitter @BenBotkin1.

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