Talks began a year ago with new union for 125 technologists at Bend hospital
BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- Dozens of St. Charles Bend technologists began two days of informational picketing in front of the hospital Sunday as they seek renewed talks on an initial contract, more than a year after joining a statewide union.
The picketing comes a year after the hospital began contract negotiations with the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, which represents about 125 technologists at the Bend hospital in areas ranging from anesthesia and surgery to X-ray and respiratory therapy. The workers voted nearly 3-to-1 to unionize in September of 2019.
OFNHP organizer Samuel Potter said, "We've been in the bargaining process since January of last year, and since this is a first contract, it means that we don't really have anything to build off of.
"It's a newly organized union," he said. "It's the first time we are negotiating as this group of workers, with this hospital, so we've really been building up from the ground. It's been challenging, to be completely honest."
The two sides have not met for nearly two months, due in part to COVID-19 staffing demands.
The union said in a statement that "management is stalling on important issues like adequate compensation" and claimed hospital officials have rejected proposals for new bargaining dates.
“We want our Bend neighbors and others throughout the region we serve to know that we will always put patients’ needs as our top priority,” said DeeDee Schumacher, a 40-year ultrasound technologist. “But the remaining contract issues could be resolved quickly, if the hospital negotiators would recommit themselves to this important process.”
In its own statement issued Friday, St. Charles said it "is awaiting a response from OFNHP on its last offer."
St. Charles Bend President Aaron Adams said, “We respect our caregivers and their right to hold this informational picket."
"While we have made much progress on the contract over the past year, we have not yet reached a final agreement," Adams said. "We look forward to negotiating again in the near future.”
Russ Amundson, a cardiovascular technologist at St. Charles, said the represented workers "are an incredible group of people" who like just about everyone have been challenged by the impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic.
"We fight COVID, we fight cancer, we fight heart attacks," Amundson said. "We're there for you in the middle of the night. We're fighters, and apparently the hospital wants to fight for a fair contract, too. We've got it in us, and we're willing to do what it takes. This is something that we deserve."