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News / Health / Clark County Health

New union OK’d at PeaceHealth Southwest

Licensed technical professionals vote 211-77 for Caregivers United

By Brooks Johnson, Columbian Business Reporter
Published: June 3, 2016, 4:59pm

They’re calling it a “Mike Tyson” blowout victory.

The PeaceHealth Southwest Caregivers United union was overwhelmingly voted into existence this week, with 211 licensed technical professionals voting for representation and 77 voting against.

“It’s overwhelming,” said CT technologist Eric Quinn. “We sent the message that we wanted to send. We didn’t just win — it was a blowout.”

The 313-member union, under the umbrella of the American Federation of Teachers and its Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals affiliate, is seeking better health care benefits and better staffing levels, among other workplace improvements.

Votes were tallied Thursday night following two days of voting and two years of organizing.

“Today, after a two-year fight, techs and therapists finally won our union,” said PeaceHealth Southwest respiratory therapist Rebecca Russo in a statement. “We know that together we can finally have a voice. I’m just so overwhelmed by the turnout and the support from all my co-workers.”

PeaceHealth, a 10-hospital system based in Vancouver, had asked employees to vote against the union as it “prefers a direct relationship with our caregivers.” However, it said it would bargain in good faith if the union were approved.

“PeaceHealth Southwest appreciates the respectful manner in which our eligible caregivers considered this issue and one another’s point of view,” said hospital communications manager Jeremy Rush on Friday. “Once the election is certified by the (National Labor Relations Board), we will honor our caregivers’ voice and prepare to enter into good-faith collective bargaining with the union to reach a first contract.”

Two other unions at PeaceHealth Southwest represent nurses and operating engineers; organizing is said to be underway for another group of hospital workers.

The next steps for Caregivers United is to form a bargaining team and submit concrete contract proposals to negotiate with PeaceHealth.

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Columbian Business Reporter