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It's grass-cutting season and with it, rural lawn mower races, Montana's drive-thru blood project is easing shortages, rural Americans spend more on food when transportation costs are tallied and a lack of good childcare is thwarting rural business owners.

Sacred Heart Hospital Staffers Vote to Join Union

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Tuesday, June 2, 2015   

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. - About 1,100 hospital workers at Peacehealth's Sacred Heart Medical Centers in Eugene and Springfield have voted to join a union.

They'll soon be negotiating their first contract as part of SEIU Local 49. Doctors and nurses at the facility are already unionized, and now they're joined by the remaining staff in more than 30 departments, from pharmacists and dietary aides to nursing assistants and janitorial staff.

Amanda Harp, a mental health technician and bargaining team member, says they want the chain of clinics and hospitals to resolve what they term "chronic short-staffing" that can affect patient care and staff morale.

"We're having higher and higher patient ratios in some areas," she says. "Talking with my coworkers, they just feel like they can't take care of their families when they come home because they've worked so hard during their day."

She says another issue has been health insurance, with high premiums and deductibles that some workers consider unaffordable.

It's one of the biggest labor-related developments in years in Oregon, but at 524 to 367, the vote wasn't a landslide. Harp believes the 'no' votes wouldn't have been so high, except for what she describes as "pressure" in the weeks before the vote.

"We had mandatory paid meetings with management that were basically asking us to vote 'no,'" she says. "We had lots of emails, and people were being pulled into offices with managers and being talked to about how they are going to vote."

Harp says Peacehealth Sacred Heart management sent an email to workers after the vote expressing its "disappointment" at the outcome.

The next step is for the union to elect its bargaining team members to negotiate with hospital management.


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