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Striking Hospital Workers Still Hope For Fair Contract

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Tiffany Eckert
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Hundreds of health care workers with McKenzie Willamette Medical Center are still on the picket line in Springfield. The 3-day strike ends at 6:30 Friday morning. The hospital has employed temporary replacements in positions including surgical nursing assistants and paramedics.

With a steady stream of picketers on the sidewalk since Tuesday morning, the hospital has had no comment beyond press releases. Wednesday, McKenzie Willamette administration wrote a 'clarification,' saying information about contract bargaining has been inaccurate.

The hospital workers on strike are members of the Service Employees International Union. Meg Niemi is President of the Local 49. She says the statement from the hospital regarding the proposed contract is little more than semantics.

Niemi: "The hospital has said they are offering a 2.75 percent raise. I think that what they don't say in that is workers have been in negotiations for over a year. Our contract expired last December. So they've gone almost an entire year without a cost of living raise. And that what they're offering is for a little bit over another year. So when you start to stretch out that 2.75, it's for over a two year period of time."

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Credit Tiffany Eckert
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Meg Niemi (center in red shirt) chants with hospital workers on the picket line.

Niemi says what workers want is a contract with assurances of a cost of living raise each year. And, they want to keep the health insurance that they currently have.

The workers say they will return to their jobs at 6:30 Friday morning. Neimi says the strike has been expensive for the hospital. She hopes it will bring administrators back to the table to negotiate a fair contract.

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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