The Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, which organizes the 150 medical technicians at the St. Charles Medical Center, agreed March 12 to end their nine-day strike. The union said in a joint press release with the hospital that it expects to reach agreement on a contract by March 31.
The strike started March 4 after a year of negotiations had failed to produce a contract the workers could accept. The joint press release says the two sides are now making progress with the help of federal mediators.
The unionists won widespread support from people in the area. They had organized daily picketing in front of the hospital, informational picketing downtown, and planned a support rally for March 15. Their strike was supported by the nurses union at the medical center.
Medical Center bosses brought in replacement technicians and threatened strikers, sending staff members an email saying, “Once a caretaker chooses to participate in a strike, they are no longer able to come back to work while a replacement is in place.”
With the new agreement, however, all the aides are set to return to work March 15.
Hospital bosses said everything was fine while the technicians were on strike. However, workers in the hospital told the press that wasn’t the case.
“There are only two technicians that even know how to use the equipment I was going to use,” neurosurgeon Priscilla Pang told Oregon Public Broadcasting, explaining why she canceled a surgery during the strike. “And frankly, I don’t feel safe with a bunch of temps coming in.”
“It’s in everybody’s interests for St. Charles to support these workers,” she said.