Portland, Ore. — Nurse leaders gathered at a rally in South Waterfront Monday morning to announce that over 3,100 registered nurses employed at Oregon Health and Science University (OHSU) have overwhelmingly voted in favor of authorizing their bargaining team to call for a strike. These nurses, representing Oregon’s largest hospital, are members of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA). The last strike by nurses at OHSU occurred in 2001 and lasted 56 days.
Duncan Zevetski, the vice president of ONA’s nurse bargaining unit at OHSU, stated, “As nurses, it is our responsibility to stand up to protect our patients and our community’s health. In fact, it is our ethical obligation to advocate for our working conditions because when our working conditions improve, our patients’ care does too. We’re ready to strike to make sure Oregonians get the care they need when they come through our doors.”
The strike authorization vote took place from September 6 to 17, with nurses at OHSU voting nearly unanimously to authorize an open-ended strike.
Frontline nurses at OHSU have engaged in over 30 contract negotiation meetings with OHSU executives since December 2022. Their contract expired on June 30, 2023, and the nurse bargaining team declared an impasse in August.
Nurses are calling for a fair contract to ensure a safe environment for patients and nurses, provide high-quality care through safe staffing, retain highly skilled nurses, and allow frontline workers to reopen negotiations if OHSU’s acquisition of the Legacy Health system is finalized.
The announcement of the strike authorization vote results was made in front of hundreds of nurses and supporters during a “Ready to Bargain, Ready to Strike” rally at Elizabeth Caruthers Park in the South Waterfront. After the rally, nurses and community allies marched to the Robertson Life Sciences Building, where OHSU’s board of directors was meeting. Some nurses went inside to observe the board meeting and were recognized by OHSU executives. Meanwhile, hundreds of nurses and allies gathered peacefully outside the building, advocating for a fair contract that prioritizes patients and respects frontline caregivers.
ONA President Tamie Cline, RN, stated, “For decades, hospitals have made billions of dollars on the backs of nurses and healthcare workers while telling us to take on more responsibility and bigger assignments at the expense of our patients and health. Hospitals have put profits over patients and are causing our healthcare crisis. All we want to do is take care of our patients, our neighbors, and our communities in the manner they deserve to be treated; not just enough to get by. We are asking OHSU to come to the bargaining table and work together with us to make sure that happens.”
In the event of a strike, ONA will provide OHSU and the community with a 10-day notice to allow the hospital executives adequate time to cease admissions and transfer patients or to reach a fair agreement with nurses and prevent a work stoppage.