Frontline Nurses at Columbia Memorial Hospital Vote to Strike

Posted on October 5, 2023

(Astoria, OR) – After nearly 8 months of fruitless contract negotiations, nurses at Columbia Memorial Hospital in Astoria, OR have overwhelmingly voted to strike. Frontline nurses voted to strike to protect patient safety and improve community health. Key issues for nurses in negotiations include winning safe staffing for patients, sustainable schedules for caregivers, retirement security, and family wages to attract and keep critical frontline health professionals caring for communities on the North Coast.

Columbia Memorial Hospital is Oregon’s most profitable nonprofit hospital and its fastest growing rural hospital. The more than 130 registered nurses at Columbia Memorial are represented by the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA).

“Nurses’ lifesaving care has kept Columbia Memorial running during good times and bad and made it Oregon’s most profitable hospital,” said Evan Bullinger, a nurse and ONA executive committee chair at Columbia Memorial. “But we refuse to watch executives cash six-figure checks while sacrificing your safety and giving our community substandard health care. People on the North Coast need safe staffing, living wages, and a secure future. We won’t stay silent and watch standards continue to slip. We need the hospital to do the right thing and we’re willing to fight to make sure our community gets the care it deserves.”

The strike vote was held Sept. 25 – Oct. 2. An overwhelming number of nurses participated and voted to authorize their bargaining team to call a strike to safeguard their patients’ and community’s health. ONA nurses are currently leading local meetings to begin preparing for a strike and working to determine strike dates.

If a strike is called, nurses will give our community and hospital executives a 10-day advance notice to ensure executives have ample time to cease admissions and transfer patients or to reach a fair agreement with nurses and avert a work stoppage.

ONA nurse volunteers have met with paid Columbia Memorial Hospital executives 12 times over the last eight months to try to negotiate a new contract–including sessions with a mediator. Nurses are advocating for a fair contract that steadies or improves patient safety, staffing, work-life balance, retirement security, and recruitment and retention. Columbia Memorial allowed nurses’ contract to expire in May 2023.

“One of the reasons nurses at Columbia Memorial are voting to strike is because we need a sustainable work-life balance. This is the cornerstone to nursing retention. Time away from the bedside is essential for our mental health. Nurses willingly sacrificed our health, safety and sanity for our patients and the hospital during the pandemic. Now we’re running on fumes. We need sustainable schedules to retain and recruit the experienced nurses our community needs. The workplace is evolving and we need creative solutions to make nursing at Columbia Memorial desirable,” said Lauren Janesh, a nurse and ONA executive committee vice-chair at Columbia Memorial. “We’re grateful for the help of our nurse travelers, but nurses should be able to afford to live in the community we care for. Currently, we have nearly 30 vacant nursing positions. We need to make changes to keep local health care workers in Astoria, rather than losing our best nurses to lucrative contracts at nearby facilities like Providence Seaside & OHSU.”

Columbia Memorial Hospital is Oregon’s most-profitable nonprofit hospital and its fastest-growing rural hospital. It regularly enjoys double-digit yearly profits—almost unheard of for nonprofit hospitals. Columbia Memorial is also an OHSU partner, aligning it with the state’s largest, wealthiest hospital.

ONA nurses across the 3 hospital OHSU system held informational pickets June 27-29 to demand hospital executives partner with workers to build stronger, safer, healthier and more patient-oriented hospitals. Hospital executives at both OHSU and OHSU Hillsboro have since signed new contract agreements with nurses to improve local care. Columbia Memorial executives have not.

KYKN Food and Clothing Drive
Half Price Oregon
Buddy Puckett
Total Comfort
Old Mill Feed & Garden
Day Heating and Cooling
F and W Fence
Jackman Wealth Management
Home Comfort