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PeaceHealth Caregivers Approve Union Contract

Tiffany Eckert

Yesterday PeaceHealth Medical Center caregivers voted to ratify their first union contract. Members of the Service Employees International Union-Local 49 approved it- 533 to 11. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert met with hospital employees and union reps when the decision was announced.

SEIU Local 49 represents 1,100 workers including licensed practical nurses, x-ray techs and certified nursing assistants like Amanda Newman.

Newman: "We're standing outside of Sacred Heart at RiverBend right now by our gorgeous fountain."

Eckert: “You’ve been here before.”

Newman: “I’ve been here before. Just around 11 months ago we stood here on May 28th and celebrated a huge win as we won our union.”

Now, caregivers are celebrating again. They overwhelmingly voted to accept a new labor contract. Local 49 President Meg Niemi says it includes a 21% wage increase over the next three years, greater access to affordable health care and respect.

Niemi: "Employees are gonna have a voice. We have a labor management committee where employees are going to be able to sit down across the table from management to address things like workload and staffing levels. We’ve gotten a member on the safety committee, we’ve gotten an agreement that people can’t work in hazardous conditions.”

Spencer Saxe is a member of the bargaining team. His father has been a Certified Nursing Assistant with PeaceHealth for 40 years and Saxe followed in his footsteps. He says the new contract honors seniority.

Saxe: "There is a great deal of solidarity in this place. You know this is in a lot of a ways a community hospital. Everyone from the doctors down to the kitchen staff actually cares about each other.”

PeaceHealth Labor and Caregiver Relations Vice President Debra Miller says the hospital is pleased with the collaborative spirit of the bargaining process.

Miller: “I feel very proud that we engaged in conversation, dialogue with all of our members including our leadership on the best way to provide care.”

The new union contract is effective immediately. Economic provisions start July 1st.

Tiffany joined the KLCC News team in 2007. She studied journalism at the University of Missouri-Columbia and worked in a variety of media including television, technical writing, photography and daily print news before moving to the Pacific Northwest.
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