On the Picket Line

Medical workers in Oregon strike for first union contract

By Louise Goodman
March 22, 2021

BEND, Ore. — The first strike in 40 years at St. Charles Medical Center began here March 4 when 150 therapists, technicians and technologists walked out to fight for higher pay. St. Charles is the only hospital in this city.

The workers had voted to join the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals union in 2019, which has been negotiating for a union contract for over a year. Bosses have refused to talk since last December.

Up to 100 union members line the street in front of the hospital every day and are getting support from passing motorists at the busy intersection. Teamsters and members of nurses’ unions are joining the picket line and small-shop owners are dropping off food for the strikers.

Contract workers at other St. Charles facilities get higher pay, striker Rachel Maida, a respiratory therapist, told Al-Jazeera. “Why are we not getting paid the same amount when we put our lives in danger every single day?” she asked.

The hospital here takes the majority of COVID-19 patients in the eastern part of the state. Because of this, bosses claim they have no money as they had to cancel more profitable elective surgeries.

They are hiring replacement workers to try to break the strike. A federal judge rejected a bosses’ request for a court injunction aimed at blocking the strike.

The union has set up the OFNHP Cares — Member Hardship Relief Fund to support the strikers. To contribute go to https://www.gofundme.com/f/ofnhp-cares-member-hardship-relief-fund.