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Burnt Out from Pandemic, OR Hospital Workers Call for Better Conditions


Friday, May 28, 2021   

ALBANY, Ore. - A group of hospital workers in Oregon wants more from its employer after what the workers say has been an especially tough pandemic year.

Samaritan Health Services workers in Albany held an informational picket this week, calling on management to continue bargaining on their union contracts, which started in February.

Paige Bond, a Certified Nursing Assistant unit aide technician at Samaritan Albany General Hospital, said workers have been called 'heroes' during the pandemic - but the hospital hasn't gone a step further with support, like hazard bonuses and other measures.

"Child-care places shut down, and help with child care would have been great," said Bond. "We haven't seen anything from them as far as COVID protections go, and it's a little bit of a slap in the face."

The workers are part of Service Employees International Union Local 49. The local represents roughly 1,000 Samaritan workers, with about half of its members at Albany General Hospital and Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center in bargaining right now.

Samaritan Health Services says at the end of 2020, it gave employees who missed up to 80 hours of work time because of COVID-19 a lump-sum payment, or replenished paid time off.

Bond noted that a local nursing home has a starting salary that's more than $4 higher per hour for CNAs than the hospital. She said she believes low wages and the potential for increasing health-care costs will lead workers to leave Samaritan.

"Me, personally, it's getting to the point where it's almost too expensive to work for Samaritan," said Bond.

Samaritan says its pay is competitive and that it's offering across-the-board pay increases in negotiations with SEIU. It also says its premiums are lower than other institutions in the state and increases would be negligible.

Bond said she hopes the informational picket will be enough to push management forward on their contract.

"People are tired and burnt out, and can't afford to pay their rent and their health care," said Bond. "They're having to make some really tough choices, and it shouldn't take this kind of thing to get the management to see that."

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

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