Striking nurses: ‘Patients over profits’

Portland, Oregon

Over 3,000 nurses from six Providence Corporation hospitals across Oregon completed a three-day strike on June 20, carrying signs saying, “Patients over profits.” Since December, the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) has been in negotiations with Providence for a contract that ensures safe staffing ratios, better hours, higher pay and improved health care benefits. The striking nurses shouted: “Heroes treated like zeros!”

Nurses strike, Portland, Oregon, June 19, 2024. Nurses strike, Portland, Oregon, June 19, 2024.

Providence, one of Oregon’s largest corporations, owns one-quarter of Oregon’s health care market. The yearly income of Providence CEOs has risen to $10 million. The nurses are being offered a 7% raise the first year and only 3% in subsequent years, less than the annual rate of inflation. 

On June 1, Oregon became the second state, after California, to establish mandatory nurse staffing ratios. The law establishes minimum staffing ratios to ensure quality patient care and to prevent nurse burnout, but the law is insufficient, as it gives the hospital corporations some flexibility. The ONA is insisting on maximum nurse-patient ratios. The union wants the contract to go beyond the minimum allowed by law, ensuring safer staffing ratios at Providence whereby nurses can provide care for patients with a wide range of needs.

Exactly one year ago, 1,800 Providence nurses and staff at three other Oregon locations carried out a week-long strike, demanding better health care coverage, paid time off, higher wages and improved staffing levels. An ONA speaker at last year’s strike rally called for fewer millionaires and more nurses. Since COVID-19 began, she said, “CEOs’ pay is up and staffing pay is down.” (

Last year, those striking nurses won wage increases between 17% and 26%, additional paid time off and a promise to add nurses in order to comply with Oregon’s staffing law.

After the current strike ended, because of a five-day contract Providence made with replacement (scab) nurses, the hospital locked out several striking nurses until June 23.

Nicole Hudson, an emergency room charge nurse at the Willamette Falls Medical Center, told this reporter that by not letting all the nurses back to work at the same time, “Providence is violating their contract, trying to separate us and cause discord between nurses.” She said the situation inside the hospital is dangerous now. There are reports from the inside that replacement workers don’t have the right experience for the job. 

Hudson stressed: “We are united, demanding that we return to work as a unit to deliver the quality care we are trained for, that feels gratifying.”

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