SPRINGFIELD, Ore. — A group of striking workers at The Rawlin Riverbend Memory Care in Springfield are unhappy with safety concerns that have been asked to deal with.
According to Oregon Health Authority, there was an outbreak there in December that led to 48 cases and 6 deaths.
Now workers allege that even after that outbreak, conditions in the facility are still dangerous because of insufficient training and understaffing.
Calls for change came on Tuesday in Springfield at the Rawlin at Riverbend Memory Care after management refused to recognize a union.
"For too long, too many second chances have been given, especially to management and the administration," said Hermes Ochoa, a lead care partner.
Workers at the Rawlin say they'll be striking every day from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. without pay until their demands are met.
"Better conditions for our residents, better wages for our workers, and better training for staff," said Summer Trosko, the lead medical tech.
Workers allege critical understaffing puts both workers and residents at risk.
"Putting one person in a hall is traumatic," Trosko said. "I mean you can't do it all you can't make sure they're hydrated and taken care of."
We brought those concerns to the Rawlin ownership, who had different views.
"I don't believe that's true," said Zack Falk, the CEO of OneLife. "I think we definitely have adequate staff to meet the needs of residents."
According to local union SEIU, 23 residents have died at the Rawlin in 9 weeks.
Falk says that number is actually 22. He says 8 died from COVID, 5 were in hospice, and 9 died in uncategorized ways.
"Around the winter months and after the holidays there is an uptick in deaths so I think it's not unusual to see that," Falk said.
Falk also commented on the decision not to recognize a union after 85% of workers signed union cards.
"Right now they're demanding that we just recognize them as a union," Falk said. "And we think they should have the ability to make that decision through a federally organized you know secret ballot election."
Falk says he's saddened to see workers striking, but the Rawlin has brought in alternate staff and residents are still being taken care of.
While on the picket line, there are no plans to back down.
"I'm out here doing what a leader should be doing and vocalizing for the people that can't be heard from inside those walls," Ochoa said.
Some workers claim to have been harassed by a "union buster" hired by the Rawlin, trying to convince them not to strike.
When we asked falk about this, he said quote:
“Given that we have no experience in dealing with an organizing effort, we did what any competent business would do: hired consultants to help us navigate through the process.”
The union tells me about 30 of Rawlin's 48 employees showed up to strike on Tuesday.
According to the Rawlin, all workers scheduled to work Tuesday morning's 6 a.m. shift showed up, and no one walked out at 10 to strike.