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Women’s health workers at Legacy push for union

Citing the attempted closure of the Mount Hood birth center and other developments, about 60 nurses and other health professionals are the latest to organize at the health system
Protest signs were placed by the Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center's entrance during a vigil for the birth center's closure on March 17, 2023. | JAKE THOMAS/THE LUND REPORT
November 10, 2023

Nurses, social workers and other medical workers spread across women’s clinics and birth centers in the Legacy Health system are moving to form a union. 

The Oregon Nurses Association announced on Thursday that a group of roughly 60 health care workers has filed papers with the National Labor Relations Board for a vote on whether to be represented by the union. If successful, the group of workers would be the latest at Legacy to be represented by the association. 

The group includes registered nurses, social workers, certified nurse-midwives, nurse practitioners, and genetic counselors. They’re located at 10 different workplaces in six Legacy hospitals in the Portland area, Marion County and Vancouver. The workers would all be represented in the same bargaining unit.  

A press statement announcing the push echoed the reasons of other health care workers who’ve organized under unions in the wake of the pandemic. Those include increased staffing levels to provide better patient care and caregiver well being, along with improved wages, benefits and a say over working conditions. 

 “We believe unionizing will spark a culture shift where Legacy management sees the irreplaceable value our nurses, midwives, social workers and counselors have as skilled leaders and changemakers in health care,” Heather Webster, a certified nurse-midwife with Legacy Medical Group at Legacy Emanuel Medical Center in North Portland, said in a statement.

Legacy did not immediately respond to a request for comment. 

The union press statement referenced Legacy’s planned merger with Oregon Health & Science University, fatal shooting of security guard Bobby Smallwood at Legacy Good Samaritan.

It also referenced Legacy’s unsuccessful attempt to close its birth center at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center in Gresham without proper regulatory approval. 

Lori Swain, a certified nurse-midwife with Legacy Medical Group who works at hospitals in Silverton, Keizer and Woodburn, said in a statement that the health system’s attempt to close the birth center showed “that the kind of care we provide to our patients can disappear in a moment.”

“We are forming a union to put protections in place to ensure that high-quality community-focused care remains the standard for birthing families in Marion County and across the Legacy Health system,” she said. 

Workers at the birth center at Legacy Mount Hood Medical Center are not part of the new organizing drive. That’s because nurses at the Gresham hospital earlier this year voted to form a union that included the birth center. 

The newest union push includes Legacy’s Mount Hood Women's Health and Maternal-Fetal Medicine at Mount Hood, which are located inside the Gresham hospital. 

If the group of workers vote for union representation, they will follow nearly 700 other nurses and others who are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association. 

You can reach Jake Thomas at [email protected] or via Twitter @jakethomas2009.