- Associated Press - Wednesday, April 27, 2016

EUGENE, Ore. (AP) - More than 1,000 workers at PeaceHealth’s Sacred Heart hospitals in Springfield and Eugene have ratified their first union contract.

Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 49 voted to approve the three-year contract Monday evening, reported the Register-Guard (https://bit.ly/1SQ3K5i). It covers cooks, housekeepers, certified nursing assistants and other workers at Sacred Heart Medical Center at RiverBend in Springfield and Sacred Heart Medical Center, University District in Eugene.

The contract takes effect immediately, according to Debra Miller, PeaceHealth vice president for labor and caregiver relations. She said most economic changes, such as raises and incentive pay, take effect July 1.

The union says the contract includes an across-the-board 8 percent wage increase for all service workers and an average 21 percent wage increase over the three-year contract.

PeaceHealth was “pleased with the outcome and the collaborative spirit the bargaining teams brought to the process,” Miller said.

SEIU officials say the contract covers the largest group of newly-organized Oregon health care workers in nearly 20 years. Workers were prompted to start organizing about two years ago because of concerns over wages, health insurance, staffing and employee engagement.

“Our members and management took the process very seriously. Our members felt this was urgent, so we were able to get a first agreement quicker than usual,” said SEIU Local 49 President Meg Niemi.

She said the contract will help employees historically paid the least move ahead economically.

Lorie Quinn, who has cleaned rooms in the intensive care unit at RiverBend for four years, said the contract will help with staffing levels and turnover and let workers focus on giving quality care to patients.

“I’m excited that we’re going to have a voice now, and we have a union to help protect our rights as workers,” she said.

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Information from: The Register-Guard, https://www.registerguard.com

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