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OR Hospital Workers Picket Over COVID-19 Safety Measures

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SEIU Local 49 members have been negotiating a contract with Providence Milwaukie hospital for more than two years. (SEIU Local 49)
SEIU Local 49 members have been negotiating a contract with Providence Milwaukie hospital for more than two years. (SEIU Local 49)
January 28, 2021

MILWAUKIE, Ore. -- Front-line hospital workers in Milwaukie, Oregon, are calling for better COVID-19 safety precautions.

Workers representing about 170 Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 members picketed Wednesday outside the Providence Milwaukie Hospital to bring attention to the issue.

Heather DeCoteau, a patient dining specialist at the hospital, believes Providence could reduce the spread of COVID-19 by giving employees paid administrative leave so they can be quarantined and tested.

"I feel that Providence is lacking in this," DeCoteau contended. "I believe that they need to step it up, as a responsibility to their community and to their patients."

DeCoteau explained she worries about bringing the virus home to her mother, with whom her family lives.

A spokesperson for Providence said the hospital follows the latest health guidelines from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Oregon Health Authority on the virus.

DeCoteau added workers have been negotiating with Providence management for more than two years on a contract. She also wants more affordable healthcare, saying she has put off knee surgery because of the expense.

"I'm working every day in pain that distracts me at times," DeCoteau stated. "I have to work that much harder to stay focused and to give my best at my job."

Providence noted they've held 29 bargaining sessions. Both sides have agreed to a federal mediator and will have their first mediated session Feb. 9.

In the meantime, DeCoteau concluded, she and her SEIU Local 49 colleagues help the hospital run.

"I consider the support workers the foundation," DeCoteau maintained. "We support every department in this hospital, and when we are supported and we support the hospital, we can give our patients optimum care."

SEIU Local 49 represents about 15,000 healthcare and building service workers in Oregon and southwest Washington, including nursing assistants, emergency-department technicians and housekeepers.

Disclosure: SEIU Local 49 contributes to our fund for reporting on Livable Wages/Working Families, and Social Justice. If you would like to help support news in the public interest, click here.
Eric Tegethoff, Public News Service - OR