Workers at Two Providence Clinics Declare Intent to Unionize

Kevin Mealy, ONA
200 ONA nurses, community allies and elected leaders lead a march and informational picket past Providence Hood River during Hood River's First Friday event on July 1, 2022.

The health care provider says it respects the rights of approximately 200 caregivers to explore representation.

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Nearly 200 health care workers at Providence Women’s Clinic and at Providence Home Health and Hospice have declared their intention to unionize and join the Oregon Nurses Association, according to a press release issued by the union Tuesday.

The coalition includes over 60 doctors, nurses and midwives from Providence Women’s Clinic and 130 physical therapists, occupational therapists, speech pathologists, social workers and counselors from at Providence Home Health and Hospice.

On Feb. 21 and 22, providers from Providence Women’s Clinics and Providence Home Health and Hospice submitted letters to Providence executives asking for voluntary union recognition. After caregivers said Providence executives declined to recognize the unions, both provider groups moved to file for a union recognition election with the NLRB.

Gary Walker, executive director of communications for Providence’s Oregon region, told Oregon Business over email that Providence Medical Group respects the rights of caregivers to explore representation. Walker says the company will follow the NLRB’s process of secret ballot elections, and whatever outcomes result the company will respect the decision reached by the caregivers.

“We encourage people to learn as much as possible about joining a union before voting. To that end, we will provide open and transparent conversations, support and education so that they can make an informed decision,” Walker wrote.  

Both provider groups — which include doctors, nurses, midwives, occupational therapists, physical therapists and speech language pathologists — independently filed union authorization cards with the National Labor Relations Board in February.

Providers at Providence Women’s Clinics work in six different women’s health clinics across the Portland metro area; the providers with Providence Home Health and Hospice work at locations throughout the Portland Metro, North Coast, Yamhill County and Columbia River Gorge areas.

After an NLRB hearing, both groups will vote separately to join ONA. ONA currently represents more than 4,000 nurses, doctors, and allied health workers at 10 Providence Oregon health care facilities throughout the state. 

The union filing follows a continuing trend of unionization among health care workers in the state. On Feb. 10, a group of emergency department physicians at Providence Medford filed with the NLRB. The new group, Southern Oregon Providers Association, says it will focus its collective bargaining power on addressing understaffing and safe patient care and ensuring access to care for the region’s most vulnerable patients.

RELATED STORY: PeaceHealth Providers File for Union Recognition

Kevin Mealy, communications manager for the Oregon Nurse’s Association, tells Oregon Business over email both groups worked closely with the ONA to organize the unionization effort.

“For health care professionals, COVID-19 made it clear that frontline workers can’t count on companies to keep them safe or to put patients’ needs first,” wrote Mealy. “One person can’t hold a corporation accountable. But when 1,000 people work together, we stand a fighting chance. Nurses look forward to working together with our new union colleagues to make the changes needed to give our community the care and respect they deserve.”

In ONA’s press release announcing the union drive, Dr. Robin Richards, an OB/GYN at Providence Women’s Clinic said he’s voting for unionization to improve health outcomes for patients.

“Our doctors, advanced practitioners and registered nurses work on the front lines of health care and are best positioned to advocate for the resources and support our patients need. ONA will guarantee that our voices are heard. This will be a win-win-win for our patients, our providers and Providence,” Richards said in the statement. 

Physical therapist Michelle Botsford Providence is pushing providers to accommodate more patients, which has had a negative effect on the quality of care. 

“Patient care really suffers under Providence’s productivity requirement. You only have a limited window of time for each appointment and there is no ‘wiggle room’ built into the schedule to handle adverse events that a patient may experience,”  Botsford said.

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