WASHINGTON—Overcoming months of anti-union scare tactics, more than 350 respiratory therapists, pharmacy technicians and other healthcare professionals in the technical unit at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield, Ore., voted overwhelmingly to join the American Federation of Teachers-affiliated Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals. The AFT now represents more than 5,000 healthcare professionals throughout the PeaceHealth system in Washington, Oregon and Alaska. Overall, the AFT represents 130,000 healthcare professionals across the country, making it the second-largest healthcare union in the country.
Warren Walsh, radiologic technologist, special procedure, said, "I am joining AFT to help bring back patient care as the No. 1 priority. Too often decisions are made by nonclinical administration only viewing the bottom line. We need adequate staffing and fair, consistent, equitable treatment of staff. PeaceHealth clearly needs caregiver guidance with these issues."
Respiratory therapist Marc Robershaw added, “When I first came to PeaceHealth and heard Sister Aileen talk about social justice and our core values, it changed my life. I was excited to work in a field where I could be a patient advocate. Sadly, this has become increasingly difficult; as patient-to-staff ratios increase, we have less time to spend with our patients. We need the time and tools to safely, effectively and compassionately treat our patients. Organizing and collective bargaining are the safest, most effective ways to advocate for our patients.”
Laurie Heppel, a respiratory therapist, said, “The hospital system has become too corporatized. Our community needs to know we caregivers care deeply for them."
Adrienne Enghouse, executive president of the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals, AFT Local 5017, added, “This is an exciting day for our union and for this community. As healthcare workers, our working conditions are our patients' healing conditions. When we have a voice at work through our union, we have the power to be the advocates our patients need. Coming together to form a union is the way healthcare workers claim their voice to push back on the corporate agenda and stand up for our patients and communities.”
AFT President Randi Weingarten released the following statement on Tech Caregivers United’s vote to unionize at PeaceHealth Sacred Heart:
“Last night, Tech Caregivers United voted decisively to form a union, joining their colleagues throughout the Peace Health system. This decision will give these wonderful healthcare workers the collective voice they need to advocate for quality patient care, fair working conditions and professional standards. Having a seat at the table increases the power of front-line caregivers to effectively advocate for their patients and their own safety and well-being. They join other PeaceHealth healthcare professionals in using their union to make their hospital a better place for patients and workers. We welcome our newest brothers and sisters from PeaceHealth Sacred Heart into our union family.”