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PeaceHealth's home nurses authorize a potential second strike

Nurses picket at PeaceHealth's homecare offices in Springfield on Feb. 12, 2024.
Nathan Wilk
Nurses picket at PeaceHealth's homecare offices in Springfield on Feb. 12, 2024.

Homecare and hospice nurses at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart in Springfield have authorized a second strike that could last indefinitely.

The nurses are seeking a contract with same wage increases as their in-hospital counterparts. They previously went on strike for two weeks in February.

“Nurses need their home lives to be okay, so they can come to work and show up for their patients,” said Desi Atwater, a member of the nurses' bargain team. “If you're worried about paying your bills or putting food on the table, how can you provide that care?”

Negotiations have since resumed. However, Atwater said PeaceHealth has effectively lowered its offer for a new contract, by changing the dates for the pay increases from what was previously discussed.

“It's been really disheartening trying to work with them,” said Atwater. “They're not participating in a way that is helpful or meaningful to us at this time.”

In an emailed statement, PeaceHealth spokesperson Joe Waltasti argued that the employer has improved its offer multiple times. He said it’s now prepared to give a 16% wage increase over four years, with additional one-time increases.

“Our goal throughout these negotiations has been to provide significant wage increases for our nurses,” said Waltasti, “and we have provided the ONA [Oregon Nurses Association] with proposals that support this goal.”

Waltasti said PeaceHealth is extremely disappointed by the authorization, and he accused the union of increasing its demands.

Meanwhile, the ONA claims the current offer still wouldn’t create the parity with other nurses that it's been asking for throughout this process.

Another bargaining session is scheduled for April 24. Atwater said the nurses want to reach a tentative agreement, but PeaceHealth will have to give them something to work with.

During the previous strike, nurses accused PeaceHealth of providing poor replacement care to patients. If this strike goes through, Waltasti said it would continue to provide uninterrupted services, but he also pointed to other options for patients.

“Given the uncertainties of an open-ended strike, we acknowledge and appreciate that there are other very capable home health and hospice agencies available to support the needs of the Lane County community,” said Waltasti.

Nathan Wilk joined the KLCC News Team in 2022. He is a graduate from the University of Oregon School of Journalism and Communication. Born in Portland, Wilk began working in radio at a young age, serving as a DJ and public affairs host across Oregon.
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