Second labor charge lodged against hospital

SPRINGFIELD – Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) has filed a second unfair labor practice charge against PeaceHealth through the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), as home care nurses continue to strike against PeaceHealth in hopes for “fair wages.” The strike will end Feb. 24.

ONA’s first charge against PeaceHealth was filed Jan. 26 because “PeaceHealth executives responded to a strike notice by threatening to terminate health insurance for home care nurses and their families throughout Lane County,” ONA officials wrote in a statement.

In ONA’s charge, it stated that ONA followed the laws outlined in National Labor Relations Act (NLRA) which state that, in this case, ONA must notify PeaceHealth of its plan to strike in writing at least 10 days prior to doing so. ONA wrote that PeaceHealth responded to ONA’s lawful action in an unlawful way, writing that PeaceHealth’s “threat of reprisal and retaliation and disparate treatment” is “patently unlawful” in the supplemental document ONA submitted alongside the Jan. 26 claim.

PeaceHealth officials wrote that ONA representatives were simply notified that their initial strike date of Feb. 1 “would cause a lapse in benefits for their members” due to PeaceHealth’s employment policy in order to “prevent our caregivers from unnecessarily losing their health benefits due to the strike’s timing.”

“PeaceHealth employment policy states that benefits expire the last day of the month in which you work,” PeaceHealth officials wrote in a statement. With this in mind, if those home care nurses’ last day of work was Jan. 31, since they were originally set to strike Feb. 1, they would have been subject to losing their benefits.

ONA president Tamie Cline said “threatening to cut its own nurses’ health care is a new low.”

“Shame on the executives running PeaceHealth for putting profits before patients and the nurses who care for them,” Cline added. “Why would anyone in this community trust PeaceHealth to provide health care for them when PeaceHealth refuses to provide healthcare for its own workers?”

Second Charge: Refusal to bargain during strike

ONA stated that PeaceHealth canceled the Jan. 23 bargaining session because ONA announced on Jan. 19 that its members would be striking in February. ONA officials added that PeaceHealth has declined to meet with ONA to bargain since prior to ONA’s strike as well as during ONA’s strike.

PeaceHealth corroborated some of ONA’s narrative.

“Once PeaceHealth received the strike notice from ONA, we immediately postponed our upcoming bargaining sessions to focus our full attention on ensuring the continued delivery of safe, high-quality patient care during the union’s strike,” PeaceHealth officials wrote in a statement. “We look forward to returning to the bargaining table once ONA’s strike is complete so we can come to an agreement that will make our home care nurses proud.”

In ONA’s second charge against PeaceHealth, which was filed Feb. 13, ONA stated that PeaceHealth is in violation of another section of the NLRA which outlines that “refusing to meet with the employees’ representative because the employees are out on strike” is unlawful.

“We love our patients; we love our jobs; and we’d love nothing more than to get a fair contract and get back to work. But we can’t talk to an empty chair,” said Jo Turner, a local hospice nurse and ONA chair at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Home Care Services. “We need PeaceHealth’s executives to show up and prove they care about the people in our community the way nurses do.”

What’s Next?

ONA representative Kevin Mealy said ONA’s two claims will now be reviewed by a regional agent of the NLRB who will determine if an investigation will be opened, “which they likely will.” He anticipates the whole process will take months.

“The National Labor Relations Board, under the current presidential administration, has been much more responsive and has moved more quickly than under the previous administration, but it still is a long process,” Mealy said. “We would certainly hope to have reached a fair contract before we get a ruling, but part of the reason to file is that we want to hold PeaceHealth accountable. We want to make sure they take meetings with nurses seriously to bargain a fair contract, and we want to hold them accountable to both the spirit and letter of the law.”

PeaceHealth officials declined to specifically comment on either of the filed charges.



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