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OR Health-Care Workers on Strike Front Line Call for Greater Protections

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Wednesday, December 8, 2021   

SPRINGFIELD, Ore. -- Strikes that erupted in what became known as "Striketober" aren't over yet. After a two-day strike in October, health-care workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield have walked out again to push management to finish up contract negotiations.

More than 300 health-care workers and members of Service Employees International Union Local 49 are striking this week through Friday for better pay and protections on the job.

Aaron Green, certified nursing assistant (CNA) at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center and a member of SEIU Local 49, spoke from the picket line about pay during the pandemic.

"Wages over the last two years have increased substantially across the state, but McKenzie hasn't kept up," Green argued. "And it really shone a light on how important affordable health care is for health-care workers."

A spokesperson for McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center said representatives from the hospital have met extensively with SEIU members, but members turned down its proposal to increase wages, leading to this week's walkout. It said hospital operations will continue uninterrupted.

Green pointed out the lack of job competitiveness has consequences. He noted the hospital has hired new people who have only stuck around for one or two months.

"Then they turn around and leave to another facility that is providing better pay and better health care," Green observed. "Which then leaves our patients feeling that, because there's less of us to do the same amount of work, so we're doing the work of two or three people."

Rachel Gordon, also a CNA at the hospital and union member, said workers want more COVID-19 protections. She also believes the hospital's proposed increase to health-care costs is unaffordable.

"I mean, I would rather be at work, inside this building here, versus being outside," Gordon stated. "So, there's a problem inside if we're outside."

SEIU Local 49 members at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center were among the first to go on strike in October, when thousands of workers across the nation also walked out for better conditions on the job.

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.

References:  
SEIU Local 49 2021

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