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Sticking With the Union: Sacred Heart Service Workers Vote Yes

SEIU Local 49

Caregivers and service employees in Eugene and Springfield voted to unionize Thursday night at  Sacred Heart PeaceHealth Medical Center. The nearly 11-hundred employees will now be members of the nation’s largest health care union. 

After the ballots were tallied, the “yes” votes took it.

“My name is Meg Neimi. I’m President of SEIU Local 49, the health care union. And, I’m standing right outside of Sacred Heart RiverBend Medical Center with a group of health care workers who are celebrating the fact that they have just won their union election resoundingly.”

The final vote: 524 to 367. This decision represents the fourth time workers have unionized at RiverBend and University District hospitals. Nurses, Operating Engineers and doctors known as hospitalists are also organized. According to Neimi, the environment in the hospital was “oppressive” leading up to this election.

Neimi: “Managers talked to employees one on one and told them they should vote no and interrogated them about how they were voting. They had mandatory meetings on work time, took people away from patients to talk to them about why they wanted employees to vote no. They (sic) surveilled employees.”

In a written statement from the hospital, Human Resources Director Marie Stehmer expressed disappointment in the decision. She said, (quote) “union affiliation does not alter our shared commitment to the patients and communities we serve.” (end quote)

Anna Blackman, a Certified Nursing Assistant with 9 and a half years at RiverBend was one of the workers outside the hospital after she voted to join the union. She hopes it means improved staffing.

Blackman:“Mostly patient safety. Want to be able to have enough people to take care of the patients, keep them safe and well taken care of.”   

The next step for the newest members of SEIU Local 49 is a bargaining survey to prioritize employee concerns.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and has worked in a variety of media including television and daily print news. For KLCC, Tiffany reports on health care, social justice and local/regional news. She has won awards from Oregon Associated Press, PRNDI, and Education Writers Association.
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