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Springfield Hospital Workers Go On Strike

Tiffany Eckert

Hundreds of hospital workers took to the picket line Tuesday protesting unfair labor practices by one of the largest for-profit health care companies in the country. KLCC's Tiffany Eckert reports from the sidewalk in front of McKenzie Willamette Medical Center in Springfield.

Radiologists, respiratory therapists and housekeepers are among the hospital workers here holding up signs and chanting. They are members of the Service Employees International Union Local 49 and they are striking after contract labor negotiations with the hospital broke down.

Kristy Kiepers works in the Cardiovascular Critical Care Unit. She is also on the union bargaining team. She says employees have been working without a contract for nearly a year. With little movement from the hospital's negotiating team, Kiepers says a strike became their last resort.

Kiepers: "We're out here fighting for our jobs, for safe staffing, for our health care benefits. But at the end of the day we have to be optimistic and hope that the hospital will look at the community support and the staff support and have that resonate with them so they'll come back to the table with a legitimate offer that we can accept."

Millie is a Certified Nursing Assistant on the surgical floor. She's been at McKenzie Willamette for 7 years. Millie has a list of grievances.  

Millie:"Short staffing. Short supplies. Some of our folks have been working here for 20-30 years without proper raises. We would just love to have the standard cost of living raise. That would be awesome."

Credit Tiffany Eckert
Carrie Clark is a cardiovascular monitor technician and serves on the union bargaining team.

Millie is afraid to give her last name. She worries about reprisal from hospital administration.

Millie: "This hospital was known in the past for being a family unit. That no longer exists because there's this big gap between administration and the floor workers."

McKenzie Willamette Medical Center employs 800 people. 350 are members of the SEIU. During the strike, the hospital has hired replacement personnel for the duration of the three day strike. In a written statement from the marketing department, the medical center says it will continue providing uninterrupted services.

The union says the hospital strike will continue until 6:30 am Friday when employees will be escorted back to work.

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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