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St. Charles Bend medical techs threaten strike; hospital ‘disappointed’

(Update: Adding video, comments from technologist, OFNHP representative)

Union claims hospital putting off talks with mediator, broke federal labor law

BEND, Ore. (KTVZ) -- A union representing more than 150 St. Charles Bend technologists has notified the hospital of their intent to strike in 10 days, bringing a stern rebuke from the hospital system, which accuses the union of bad-faith bargaining.

Negotiations stalled late last year on efforts to reach an initial contract between the recently unionized group,, part of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, and the hospital.

Harris Leslie has worked at St. Charles Bend for the last six years.

"I specialize in the heart,” the cardiac sonographer told NewsChannel 21 Monday about his job. “So I do all different types of ultrasound procedures on the heart."

Leslie is one the technologists intending to strike if the hospital does not resume negotiations on the union's contract.

"My compensation is not at what would be an appropriate market value for the area," Leslie said.

Those represented by the union includes raspatory therapists, critical to the fight against COVID-19.

Union representative Samuel Potter said that risk was considered.

The intent to strike vote passed overwhelmingly, 94 percent in favor, the union said.

"We're willing to do whatever it takes to finish this contract, before the 10 days are up," Potter said.

In a statement, St. Charles said the two sides were in discussions with a federal mediator and already had scheduled a new negotiating session on March 10 -- but the hospital said it won't proceed with the talks and instead will prepare for the walkout.

Rebecca Berry, vice president of human resources for St. Charles Health System, said, "if ONFHP believes that progress is not being made, it needs to look at its own decisions."

Potter said the contract was 85 percent complete when St. Charles left the table in December. But St Charles said it was waiting for the union to respond to its last offer.

"Two things are remaining the table: Fair wages and respect," Potter said.

And Leslie added a resolution will result in the best patient care possible.

"We really care about our patients," he said.

St. Charles said it plans to file an unfair labor practice charge of bad faith bargaining with the National Labor Relations Board. 

Here is the full statement from the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals:

"This (strike notice) decision comes after more than an arduous full year of negotiating their first union contract, where management refused to agree to fair wage and working condition proposals and is stalling on setting reasonable bargaining dates.

"Management’s unwillingness to settle the contract has pushed these essential healthcare employees to take a stand so that they can gain living wages and a voice on the job. The medical techs voted by more than 94% to authorize the strike and sent the 10-day notice of striking shortly after authorization.

“Management has been unwilling to agree to common-sense proposals that can help both staff and patients, and this is our last resort to improve the conditions at the hospital,” says DeeDee Schumacher, an ultrasound technologist who has worked at St. Charles for 40 years.

“We don’t want to strike and would rather continue working in our community, so we hope the hospital will avert this by settling a fair contract.”

"After winning a union election in 2019, this unit of front-line caregivers has been bargaining their first contract for more than a full year, and the hospital has yet to agree to critical provisions about pay and other working conditions.

"In addition, the hospital broke federal labor law by changing pay for some health care professionals.

"Over the weekend of January 31st and February 1st the techs held an informational picket at the hospital with mass participation. On December 3, 2020, the hospital canceled bargaining and only agreed to return to the bargaining table following that picket. Management subsequently agreed to mediation, but have still delayed establishing timely bargaining dates.

 "We know that when front-line health workers do not receive the support they need, then patient care can also suffer. Since our patients are our top priority, the technologists, technicians, and therapists are calling on the hospital to do the right thing for both their community and staff. Over 90% of these techs report being underpaid, and management’s proposals would not allow for adequate wage adjustments," the statement concluded.


St. Charles issued this statement Monday afternoon:

BEND, Ore. – St. Charles Health System was disappointed to receive a 10-day strike notice from OFNHP today for a strike of indefinite duration beginning March 4. OFNHP represents about 150 technical employees at the St. Charles Bend hospital campus.

“We are in the midst of a pandemic where St. Charles and all of our caregivers have been at the forefront of treating our community members with COVID-19. Our organization is also deeply involved in running large-scale community vaccination clinics for three counties alongside our Deschutes County partners,” said Aaron Adams, president of St. Charles Bend and Redmond. “While this strike notice cannot slow our efforts to meet these critical community needs, it just adds new – and unnecessary – challenges when our community needs us most.”

"The timing of this notice is completely inconsistent with what OFNHP has been asking of St. Charles. As recently as Saturday, the two parties were in discussion with a federal mediator to see if new dates for bargaining could be set in addition to the March 10 date that is already scheduled. The mediator offered dates on March 3, 4 or 5, which were under consideration when the strike notice was delivered. Because OFNHP has chosen to strike, St. Charles will now be required to direct its time to strike preparation rather than negotiations and will be unable to meet during the notice period.

"The St. Charles bargaining team has been waiting since Dec. 3 for OFNHP to respond to its last negotiation offer. St. Charles and OFNHP have met 28 times to negotiate the first-time contract – 23 of them during a global pandemic.

“While the surge in COVID-19 cases over the past few months has made it difficult to continue bargaining with full bargaining teams, we have invited OFNHP to provide a comprehensive response via email or over the phone. OFNHP has not chosen to do so,” said Rebecca Berry, vice president of Human Resources for St. Charles Health System. “If ONFHP believes that progress is not being made, it needs to look at its own decisions. We were concerned enough about the lack of progress that we suggested bringing in a federal mediator and OFNHP agreed. Now, OFNHP has issued a strike notice without ever meeting with a mediator, even though it had already agreed to the specific date of March 10 for our next session. We don’t understand OFNHP’s strategy.”

"Because St. Charles leaders are concerned that OFNHP is bargaining in bad faith – and in doing so jeopardizing the patients in our community – the health system plans to file an unfair labor practice charge of bad faith bargaining with the National Labor Relations Board so that these concerns can be fully addressed."

“Again, we reiterate our disappointment in OFNHP’s decision,” Berry said. “St. Charles will take all necessary steps to ensure that care for our community continues in a safe and uninterrupted way.”

Jack Hirsh is speaking with a representative from the ONFHP and will have a full report starting on NewsChannel 21 Fox @ 4.

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Jack Hirsh

Jack Hirsh is a multimedia journalist for NewsChannel 21. Learn more about Jack here.

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Comments

43 Comments

  1. Has this worthless management at St. Charles not relized they cannot hold onto thier quality employees over the last few years? I have several good friends who’ve left St. Charles for lower-paying jobs elsewhere, due to the caustic and muted attitudes of the management. Complaints fall on deaf ears within the St. Charles managements system. It’s designed that way, and the employees have had enough of it. Unfortunately, many organizations operate this way. That doesn’t mean these employers have to. St. Charles should be an environment that is inviting and desired as a place of employment. They talk a big game in the hiring processes, but when it comes down to it- the employees quickly relize that they are nothing more than a number to the management at St. Charles. Just look at the turnover rate. It has nothing to do with pay or lack thereof.

      1. Yes they said that about the nursing strike too, one of the most successful in the country. When you pay people less than the market it is offensive to say the least

      2. I spent 5 days at St Chucks a couple weeks ago. I was talking to one of the young
        nurses that I had, and she said she hadn’t been in Bend very long, and that she
        is a traveling nurse. I had never heard of that before…

        1. I hadn’t either until becoming acquainted with a traveling doctor a few years ago. He gets shipped all over the place. Hopefully you’ve recovered from whatever put you into the hospital.

          1. Thank you. It’s been a long, slow process but I am slowly getting better.
            There are certainly people that are a lot worse off than I am, and sadly
            some of them are very young kids…

  2. All the grocery stores in my area are having issues with check out clerks not showing up for work because the pay is to low compared to the risk ,Seems to me they are the real front-line workers

    1. It has nothing to do with risk. There is no forced contact in buying groceries. It’s lazy Americans doing what they know best. Being lazy and complaining.

    1. Here JJ- lemme help ! For the past year Kovid Kate has been receiving billions of dollars in China Virus checks from the Feds- she’s doled them out to state hospitals but can’t account for all of it- which is just floating around I guess. Anyway- these techs believe that formed a Union for the specific purpose of “striking” while the iron is hot. Now with the fake pandemic response winding down- they need to get paid ! That really is what all this is about- “greed” at the expense of the US taxpayer… so where’s that “Hostile Hill Girl” on this- her people- her hill !

        1. Damn John Brown- if yer gonna quote someone- do it right… here’s the actual post- “Now with the fake pandemic response”…. Removing the word “response” was deceptive- cheap- and pretty common for liberal losers who can’t discuss real world issues- so they make up their own ! As for your 500k claim-according to the CDC- only 6% of that number actually died from the China V alone- that makes the real death toll to your global pandemic- 30,000 ! Deal with the reality of science in a world gone mad !

    1. Years ago, SCMC would not meet the nurses half way oh a contract, took a very successful strike to get it done. They were not expecting a strict that successful. Better pay attention

  3. Medical costs are already out of sight. It’ll soon have to become nationalized…period.
    The medical professions aren’t going to like that much, but certainly must share the blame.

  4. The best part about being in a union is that I only have to work as hard as 50.1% of the folks there to look good. And I never have to worry about doing well because I’ll never make a penny more than the worst employee, so why give any extra effort. My union (closed shop) rewards excellence, mediocrity and poor performance. Who says people don’t respond to incentives? I sure do. My incentive is to show up and keep my head down and get a “satisfactory” rating. It’s comforting to know that medical technicians have the same incentive for excellence.

    1. Totally agree with you here. I was working at one of the unionized grocery stores in Bend. Some of the people in my department worked their butts off while others were completely lazy and just did the bare minimum and often times less. One guy would sneeze in his hat and put it back on his head. I Quit. FYI – Delis can be very Disgusting so pay attention when shopping.

  5. Typical St Charlie’s attitude – Money first! Everyone else get in line. Patients and employees. That’s why I travel to Portland to OHSU because they really care!

  6. “My compensation is not at what would be an appropriate market value for the area” – 2 questions – What is the appropriate market value? and Why not go to work for who is paying that appropriate value?

    1. Appropriate market value is subjective to a degree, if they underpay then why did those people come here for those jobs?
      They need to be very specific about pay, using numbers not descriptives.
      Maybe KTVZ could do that research, they used to call it journalism.

  7. 94% of 150 people voted to strike? Something is definitely going on with management to get that response. My family of 4 can’t get that type of agreement for what to eat for dinner. St. Charles has been going down hill for years. It needs another hospital to come in for competition.

  8. St Charles is a nonprofit so in theory they break even every year after paying the bills and investing in new equipment and expansion to make sure they can provide the services for an increasing population. They are the most expensive hospital in Oregon and evidently don’t pay their staff that well. So where does all the money go?

    1. Such a good question! The management acts like the money for supplies comes out of their own pockets. Many employees believe this newer management is making some incentive pay based on over cost of their departments included employee pay. They are refusing to hire relief workers and making employees work load double if a coworker is out sick. They have lost all common sense when it comes to ethics and work culture.

      1. How do you propose they hire more workers when operating margin this past year was 0.3%? That means money was made but only by the thinnest of margins.

        Did you know that most other hospitals have laid off healthcare workers during the pandemic due to the mass cancellation of elective procedures?

        Do you actually weigh in this information before forming your opinion or do you just believe in whatever fantasy you come up with?

    2. If you look at hospital finances, Medicare/Medicaid covers MOST of a hospitals operating expenses. Basically, if they lost private insurance payers and self-pay patients, they would almost be at break even, but probably still losing money. Pair that with the mass cancellation of elective procedures, and you can see how 1-3% operating margin can quickly go negative.

      But you are thinking about the right things. We have a system where not-for-profits are doing exactly that — not making much of a profit. We’ve just witnesses that the mass cancellation of elective procedures results in virtually every hospital in this country going red and having to take drastic measures to avoid losing tons of money fast. I believe in the past SCHS has avoided this with temporary payroll deductions, forced PTO, things like that. As bad as those sound, I’m sure keeping your job in the long term sounds better.

      I just googled the 2019 operating report, so you can see most of this information presented to you in a very straight forward manner if you are actually curious:

      https://www.stcharleshealthcare.org/sites/default/files/Documents/Annual%20Report/DA_Annual-Report2019.pdf

      I think the bigger question this raises, is why is everyone seemingly OK with hospitals laying off emergency staff and workers due to every hospital bleeding money as soon as an actual pandemic hits? The next major health issue will be just as devastating, if not worse, if we don’t actually address that the for-profit model for hospitals resulted in the lay offs of emergency workers during a pandemic due to financial issues.

  9. “My compensation is not at what would be an appropriate market value for the area,”
    The market value for your services IS the amount of compensation someone is willing to pay for them. If you think that your services are worth more than what St Charles is paying, you should go to someplace that is paying what you’re worth.

  10. Correction:
    The market value for your services IS the amount of compensation someone is willing to pay for you skills/experience, and is able to find/hire providers of those services.

  11. Does anyone know what there pay is and what the national average is ?

    I’ve always been told medical professionals make more money. Around 20% more here then in most other places in america is that not true?

      1. If they want support then show the numbers. The actual pay compared to other markets doing the exact same job.
        KTVZ should being providing this data rather than just describing the pay rate. Numbers matter.

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