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Nurses at Legacy’s Gresham hospital push to unionize

Oregon Nurses Association, the state’s largest nurses union, continues organizing efforts at a hospital attracting attention for the planned closure of its birth center
Activists on Feb. 13, 2023, protested the proposed closure of Mount Hood Family Birth Center in Gresham. | JAKE THOMAS/THE LUND REPORT
March 7, 2023

This article has been updated to include comment from Legacy. 

Nurses at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham want to vote on whether or not to unionize under the Oregon Nurses Association. 

The Oregon Nurses Association announced on Tuesday that 370 nurses working at the hospital a day earlier had filed a petition with the National Labor Relations Board for a unionization vote. The potential vote comes as the politically active union continues to clash with health care management over working conditions while it pursues a bill setting minimum hospital staffing ratios. 

A statement from the union noted that Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center serves the “diverse, fast-growing communities” of east Multnomah County and Clackamas County. Nurses at the hospital are pursuing unionization to “protect patients’ access to safe, high-quality health care; restore respect for frontline workers; and gain a voice in decisions that affect their community’s health and welfare,” according to the statement. 

“We’re focused on improving health care access and affordability for the people living here,” Teddy Glemser, an emergency department charge nurse, said in the statement. Joining ONA is how nurses will win a real voice in hospital decision making and ensure our patients, providers and community get a fair shot.” 

The statement announcing the unionization effort referenced Legacy’s plans to close the hospital’s family birth center, which has sparked alarm among staff, elected leaders and others that expectant mothers will be left in danger as they travel longer distances to give birth. Legacy’s plan to close the birth center has caused staff to feel less secure about their jobs and to seek union protection, according to the statement. 

“I want my job as a nurse to be protected and to have a voice at the table when decisions are made that affect my employment and patient safety,” Alejandrina Felipe, who was raised in Gresham and worked for 22 years as a nurse at the family birth center, said in the statement. “I want to continue advocating for my community without fear of retaliation. I am learning firsthand the hardship of being displaced from a job I always felt safe and most of all not serving my East County community.”

The date for the union election at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center will be set after the National Labor Relations Board determines if at least 30 percent of workers have signed a petition indicating they want to unionize. Legacy, which operates six hospitals, can voluntarily recognize the union or try to persuade workers to reject it in the vote. 

"Legacy Health has received a petition for representation from the Oregon Nurses Association on behalf of nurses at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center," a statement issued to The Lund Report by the health system reads. "We respect our nurses’ rights to determine union representation through a secret ballot election to be held by the National Labor Relations Board, and we look forward to sharing additional information when we can."

The Oregon Nurses Association is the largest nurses union, representing more than 15,000 nurses and other health care workers. Currently, it represents more than 300 nurses at Legacy’s Unity Center for Behavioral Health in Portland and Legacy Silverton Medical Center in the Willamette Valley. 

According to the union, nurses and other medical workers have sought to unionize at clinics and hospitals around the state. 

You can reach Jake at [email protected] or via Twitter @jakethomas2009.