200 Providence Milwaukie Hospital employees form union
Two-hundred certified nursing assistants, phlebotomists, dietary aides and environmental service workers at Providence Milwaukie Hospital voted on June 14 to join the Service Employees International Union.
Hospital workers cited their desire to provide high-quality care as their primary reason for joining SEIU.
"Forming our union is about us wanting to have adequate staffing," said Linda Cornelius, a certified nursing assistant. "At the end of the day this is about taking good care of our patients, and we need to be able to advocate for the staffing and resources to be able to care for them."
Workers also are looking forward to an opportunity to negotiate more affordable medical benefits, wage increases that keep up with the growing cost of living in the region and a stronger voice in the workplace.
"I'm glad we have our union now, so we can address the high cost of our insurance," said Bri Underhill, a patient access representative at the hospital. "A lot of my co-workers put off the care they need because of the cost and end up having to miss work when they get too sick."
In a letter to management, the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs with Justice urged management at Providence Milwaukie Hospital — which is part of the nonprofit Catholic Providence Health & Services system — to respect their employees' decision to organize."
Sherri Kulink, chief executive at Providence Milwaukie Hospital, sent the following meeage to caregivers after the election:
"We will move forward together in working with SEIU. We support our caregivers' decision. The next step in the process is to enter into good-faith bargaining. It's important that we move forward together, treating one another with respect and embracing our core values. As always, our priority is to work together to serve our Mission by providing excellent patient care and by caring for one another."
"This is an incredible victory for caregivers who have worked so hard to have a voice in quality care and improve their lives," said SEIU Local 49 President Meg Niemi. "The 13,000 members of SEIU Local 49 look forward to working with Providence caregivers to make sure they are respected and have their voices heard though the bargaining process and in our communities."