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Strike Called Off As Union And McKenzie-Willamette Reach Tentative Deal

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center. | CHRISTIAN WIHTOL/THE LUND REPORT
September 5, 2019

McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center and Service Employees International Union Local 49 have reached a tentative labor pact and the union has called off a strike it had set for later this month.

“We Stood Together and Won!” declares the SEIU leaflet that’s being distributed at the Springfield hospital.

“We reached a tentative contract agreement with management on Wednesday night that averts a strike, increases our wages, limits health care cost increases and makes other improvements,” the leaflet states.

In announcing the strike in late August, union officials said McKenzie-Willamette was offering inadequate pay raises and was asking employees to pick up an excessive amount of the cost of their health insurance.

Those issues appear to be resolved in the tentative deal, although the union did not provide specific dollar figures.

The union,which represents about 400 McKenzie-Willamette workers, said the contract provides across-the-board wage increases  “that keep our wages competitive,” plus additional wage increases for “jobs that were the most underpaid,” as well as “a process for people who were started too low (on the wage scale) to get additional increases for their prior experience.”

Other benefits of the tentative contract include “improved rights for union bulletin boards and union leave,” the leaflet said.

The previous three-year contract expired July 31. It had banned strikes during the term of the contract.

The sides apparently reached a deal on their last scheduled meeting - Sept. 4 - before the planned strike.

The union represents a wide range of workers, from pharmacy and MRI techs to custodians, cooks and housekeepers. Registered nurses at the hospital are represented by a separate union, the Oregon Nurses Association.

The just-expired three-year SEIU contract had provided workers solid raises in the form of annual step and cost-of-living increases.

The step increases amounted to 3 percent per step for steps one to eight, and 3.5 percent per step for steps one to 14. Workers received a step increase each year. In addition, most union-represented job categories received a 2.5 percent cost-of-living increase per year. As a result,  most workers were getting annual raises totaling about 5.5 percent unless they were at the top of the step scale, in which case they typically only received the cost-of-living annual increase.

The hospital employs about 975 people.

Union and McKenzie-Willamette officials could not be reached Thursday night for contract details and comment.

You can reach Christian Wihtol at [email protected].