Share this article

Roughly 1,800 Oregon Nurses Just Went on Strike — Here’s Why

Matthew Arrojas
Updated June 23, 2023
    The Oregon Nurses Association said the local health system has been unwilling to come to the bargaining table.
    Nurses protesting with signs in OregonCredit: Anadolu Agency via Getty Images
    • After eight months of contract negotiations, nurses in Oregon decided to go on strike.
    • The nurses’ union is negotiating for higher wages, adequate staffing, better healthcare, and reasonable paid time off.
    • The strike impacts three healthcare centers, the biggest of which is in Portland.

    Approximately 1,800 nurses in Oregon went on strike this week — the first such work stoppage there in more than two decades — citing a need for higher pay and better working conditions, including healthcare and paid leave.

    The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) stated that striking nurses and other clinicians at the Providence Portland, Providence Seaside, and Providence Home Health and Hospice facilities — together comprising more than 500 patient beds in and around the Portland area — are asking leadership to return to the bargaining table to negotiate a new contract. According to ONA, the two sides were in talks for eight months before negotiations broke down and nurses voted June 8 to strike.

    The work stoppage lasted from Monday through Friday evening. It was the first nursing strike in Oregon since 2001, according to ONA officials.

    The union’s primary contract demands include:

    • An increase in wages to be market competitive
    • Employee healthcare that is comprehensive and “reasonably priced.”
    • Adequate staffing levels
    • “Reasonable” paid time off and sick leave

    “Specifically in the clinic setting, Providence’s compensation for clinic nurses is incongruent with the market for wage parity,” Christy Youngquist, a registered nurse (RN) and Providence Seaside bargaining team member said in a statement.

    Youngquist added that Providence does not offer parity between outpatient and inpatient nurses. Meanwhile, competitors pay outpatient RNs on the same scale as inpatient nurses.

    This is one area of concern in contract negotiations.

    Providence said it plans to return to the bargaining table after the strike. In the meantime, it took measures to accommodate patients during the work stoppage, such as rescheduling elective surgeries and closing neonatal intensive care units, according to a June 14 statement from Providence.

    The healthcare organization added that it offered the three bargaining teams a $35 million combined package for the first year of the three contracts. That includes an average wage increase of 12% in year one at Providence Portland, which employs 1,300 of the 1,800 nurses on strike.

    ONA later accused Providence of sharing information misleading to the public, specifically about average full-time equivalent salaries for Providence Portland nurses.

    [June 14], they released a press statement that not only missed the point yet again, but it also tried to mislead the public, distract from the real issues facing caregivers and their patients, and tried to drag us into a battle over their misinformation,” ONA said in a statement. “We aren’t taking the bait, and neither should you.”