WSNA files unfair labor practice charge against PeaceHealth Southwest after 14 bargaining sessions

(Vancouver, May 10) After 14 negotiating sessions for a new contract, WSNA has filed unfair labor practice charges against PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center on behalf of the 1,465 nurses the association represents at the facility. Nearly four months after negotiations began, the parties remain sharply divergent on fundamental contractual issues such as wages, sick pay and workplace violence prevention. Their previous contract expired on February 28, 2024.

The unfair labor practice charge filed on April 24, 2024 alleges that PeaceHealth Southwest violated Sections 8(a)(1) and 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act and by defaming the union and its members in its communications. by threatening employees who wear union T-shirts and badges and engaging in bad faith negotiations on several issues. The accusations will now be investigated by agents of the National Labor Relations Board.

“Nurses at PeaceHealth Southwest spent hundreds of unpaid hours negotiating this contract,” said Kelly Skahan, union advisor for WSNA and lead negotiator of the nurses’ contract with the medical center. “It is high time that management gives them the respect they are due and negotiates in good faith for a fair contract.”

One of the key issues that PeaceHealth Southwest has refused to compromise on is pay equity for home health and hospice nurses in the bargaining unit. The medical center insisted that nurses working in these life-saving specialties should not receive the same pay increases as their peers in inpatient services. PeaceHealth’s proposal would put home health and hospice nurses up to 5% behind their colleagues working in hospitals.

“To say that we as hospice and home health nurses feel devalued and disrespected by PeaceHealth is an understatement,” said Brooke Churchman, hospice nurse.

Churchman said paying home health and hospice nurses less than hospital-based nurses would leave home health and hospice nurses feeling undervalued and encourage them to seek work elsewhere. Providence’s home health and hospice nurses in the Portland area are generally paid at rates comparable to or higher than nurses at its Portland medical centers.

On April 18, more than 1,000 people participated in an informational picket outside the hospital with several community leaders offering support, including Vancouver Mayor Anne McEnerny-Ogle.

“We are lucky to have you in the city of Vancouver,” she said. “We know how difficult the pandemic has been for you. We know how difficult it is for you now. We are here to support and defend you.

Other local officials – State Rep. Monica Stonier (D-Vancouver) and State Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-Vancouver), chair of the Senate Health and Long-Term Care Committee – also expressed their support. support during the afternoon rally.

“Over the past four years, we have faced the challenges of an unprecedented pandemic. And you came to work every day with a threat to your physical health and a threat to your mental health and yet you persevered,” said Senator Cleveland. “You were there when families needed you. »

Other big remaining issues:

Safe staffing – Nurses at PeaceHealth Southwest often work without breaks and are assigned too many patients. Nurses are fighting for measures that would make safe staffing plans enforceable so that PeaceHealth Southwest nurses do not have to regularly work short-staffed. Meanwhile, starting in June, Oregon hospitals must comply with statutory minimum nurse-to-patient ratios, which set a maximum number of patients that each nurse can be assigned to each patient care unit. Vancouver-area hospitals like PeaceHealth Southwest risk losing nurses to neighboring Oregon hospitals without any changes.

Competitive salaries – After demand for qualified nurses far outpaced supply during the pandemic, PeaceHealth Southwest’s pay scale failed to keep up with the Portland area market. The hospital is losing nurses to better-paying positions across the river in Portland and elsewhere in Vancouver.

Sick time – PeaceHealth leadership proposed eliminating extended sick leave banks for nurses, which allow nurses to use six shifts of paid sick leave each year during longer absences like COVID isolation periods or postpartum without emptying their general PTO banks. This will force nurses to give up their vacation time if they have to stay home due to illness.

Prevention of workplace violence – The administration has refused to commit to prioritizing low-cost or no-cost workplace violence prevention initiatives, such as establishing screening protocols to ensure weapons do not enter the hospital, Access rules that prevent unauthorized entry into patient care areas, pathways for nurses to formally identify. complex or disruptive patients, and policies to protect home health and hospice nurses when they enter patients’ homes.

PeaceHealth is a non-profit Catholic health system based in Vancouver that provides care in ten hospitals and several clinics in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. PeaceHealth system facilities have often been sites of labor conflict, and the system itself is rated “below average” on the job search site Indeed in terms of employee well-being.

The next negotiation session will take place on May 13 with a federal mediator.

See a previous version for more information about nurse complaints and history of workplace unrest at PeaceHealth.