BEND, Ore. — Nearly 100% of the Oregon Nurses Association membership at St. Charles Medical Center here voted to approve a new three-year contract after six months of negotiations. The union declared victory after winning substantial wage increases, making its members the highest-paid nurses in Oregon. Under the terms of the contract, recent nurse graduates will see their salaries increase by 41%, and seasoned nurses will see wages increase by 31% to 36% over the life of the contract. Gains were also won on break times and scheduling.
One key union demand that remains to be conquered is lower nurse/patient ratios. Some nurses said they look forward to taking this on in the future.
The members voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike, to begin June 12 after the hospital refused to budge on any of their demands. When a deal was struck, the union leadership attributed the gains won to the membership’s willingness to strike, and the solidarity from other unions, like the teachers’ union.
According to the nurses’ union press release, “By showing our willingness to strike we made it possible to not have to. Our demand was to Recruit, Retain, and Respect nurses. And WE WON.” Large informational picket lines and rallies of over 600 people were held in April.
As Bend’s biggest employer and only hospital, many community members saw the importance of joining the pickets and putting union signs in their yards. “This is a big victory for nurses and everyone who relies on St. Charles for care,” Erin Harrington, a nurse and executive bargaining committee member, told the media.