PeaceHealth, unions clashing after health system places hundreds of workers on unpaid leave

Published by OREGON PUBLIC RADIO on 9/4/21 (Source)

Amid a surge in new COVID cases, a Pacific Northwest hospital system is at odds with its employee unions over a decision to dismiss hundreds of unvaccinated workers.

PeaceHealth, based in Vancouver, Washington, placed roughly 800 unvaccinated workers on leave as part of a companywide vaccine mandate that went into effect Sept. 1. Statewide mandates for health care workers in Oregon and Washington won’t take effect until next month.

Since PeaceHealth announced the mandate on Aug. 3, unions representing a swath of workers — from nurses to respiratory therapists to custodians — have leveled at least seven labor complaints. The Washington State Nurses Association, which filed its complaint Aug. 20, said the system forced a change in policy without discussing it with the worker groups.

“It’s the health system’s responsibility to negotiate with their unions, and it is our right to negotiate over these events,” said Ruth Schubert, a WSNA representative.

Schubert said she and the union support vaccines and the vaccine mandates handed down by Oregon and Washington’s governors. She worried PeaceHealth’s earlier deadline came as COVID-19 is straining hospitals.