Hospital Physicians at Providence St. Vincent Vote to Unionize

The union follows a flurry of union activity in the health care sector this summer.

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Last week 70 hospital physicians at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Portland voted to join the Pacific Northwest Hospital Medicine Association, a hospitalists union represented by AFT Health Care and served by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA).

In response to the vote, Providence released a statement saying the company respects the hospitalists’ decision to unionize, and that Providence has a long history of working collaboratively with caregivers unions.

The summer has been an active one for labor activity in the health care sector. Nurses at Providence Health Systems in Portland and Seaside held five-day strikes. Nurses at St. Charles medical center in Bend authorized a strike against the hospital system but ended up reaching an agreement before the strike began.

Nurses at Oregon Health & Science University (OHSU) held informational pickets in Portland, Astoria and Hillsboro, as did nurses at PeaceHealth in Eugene and Springfield. 

While, nationally, union membership is at an all-time low, the health care sector is proving an exception.

Increases in labor activity in the health care sector can be traced back to the COVID-19 pandemic, which drove health care employees to raise awareness about their compensation and benefits in addition to safety precautions and access to personal protective equipment and paid time off. 

Shirley Fox, an obstetrician hospitalist at Providence St. Vincent who voted to unionize, said in an ONA press release after the vote that the decision would reshape the doctors’ relationship to the health care system.

“We want to redefine our relationship with the hospital system, which has increasingly put our concerns aside as it aims to meet corporate priorities. We wish to come face-to-face as respected health professionals to address important issues in the safe delivery of patient care, and to address the sustainability of our current working conditions,” Fox wrote.

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