OR women's health clinic staff seek to unionize to improve conditions
Friday, November 17, 2023
Workers at Legacy's women's health clinics have announced their intention to unionize. About 60 nurse midwives and other health staff at clinics in Oregon and southwest Washington intend to join the Oregon Nurses Association.
Heather Webster, a certified nurse midwife at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland, said the decision was driven in part by the failed attempt to close the birth center at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham.
"There's a lot of stakeholders in this that were never consulted about that change and how it would affect their jobs," Webster explained. "It became really obvious that we really needed a seat at the table and to be able to have negotiations around things like this and be able to be heard when we had concerns."
In response to the drive, Legacy Health said it "respects an employee's right to choose whether to be represented by a union and will respect the outcome of any petition to unionize." Staff involved in the union drive are hoping to get approval from the National Labor Relations Board for a vote by the end of the year.
Infant and maternal health are major issues in the U.S. A recent study found the infant mortality rate rose between 2021 and 2022 for the first time in two decades.
Webster stressed midwives are key to infant care.
"The truth is midwives are really the answer to the morbidity and mortality rate of moms and babies in the U.S., and it's been proven time and time again," Webster pointed out. "Midwives decrease caesarean birthrates, midwives decrease preterm birthrates."
Webster added midwives face a number of issues, including difficulty finding coverage when they are sick and burned out.
"The demands are great and the pay isn't always that great," Webster noted. "We really have to bring our standards up and that is so the people inheriting this profession will stay in it and make it worth their while."
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