This article is adapted from a previous post by the author at Solidarity News, Matthew O-G
Workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center in Springfield, represented by SEIU 49, went on a two day strike starting the morning of Tuesday, October 5. CNAs, dieticians, housekeeping staff, and more struck for fair wages, affordable healthcare, and to stop outsourcing labor. The union is set to return to the bargaining table Tuesday, and if they do not receive an adequate offer from management, they could strike again.
Gypsy Smith is a housekeeper at McKenzie-Willamette and is among one of the 100 workers whose jobs are set to be outsourced on October 24. Smith started her job at the beginning of the pandemic, but says she also knows co-workers who have worked at the hospital for several decades that are facing outsourcing.
“People who devoted their lives and risked [their] lives are being betrayed. [McKenzie-Willamette] just betrayed us, discarded us, and people are being forgotten.”Gypsy Smith, Housekeeper at McKenzie-Willamette
In addition to the threat of outsourcing, all members of the 400 worker bargaining unit are fighting a 27% raise to healthcare costs over the next three years.
Workers are also seeking competitive wages from their company that received $4.5M in CARES act funds.
Many community members came to support including allied unions and politicians. Members of GTFF, SEIU 503, ATU, ONA, Roofers, UFCW 555, AFSCME, OSEA, OFNHP, and SEA showed their support on the picket line. John Gangl, who works for LTD and is also the recording secretary of ATU 757, remembers when the healthcare workers had his union’s back and finds it important to stand up for these workers now in their time of need.
Workers met Thursday morning before walking in together at McKenzie-Willamette. While the strike has ended, the struggle for job security and a fair contract continues. Union leaders speculate that if management does not give an adequate offer at the bargaining table, workers could go on strike again.