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Still no contract after BHR strike

Steven Friederich | The Vidette  Workers with Behavioral Health Resources went on strike on Friday in front of their office in Elma. They went back to work Monday morning. Both sides remained at an impasse on their contract as of Tuesday.Buy Photo
Steven Friederich | The Vidette Workers with Behavioral Health Resources went on strike on Friday in front of their office in Elma. They went back to work Monday morning. Both sides remained at an impasse on their contract as of Tuesday.

Dozens of union employees of mental service provider Behavioral Health Resources launched a strike on March 14, calling for a management shakeup of their employer after contract negotiations have languished for almost a year.

The strike started Friday morning, lasted through the weekend and workers returned to their posts Monday morning.

Paul Gray, who works at the Elma office, joined fellow workers and some of their family members on Main Street in Elma raising signs declaring “Unfair labor practice,” “Save BHR,” and “STOP mismanagement.” The union says they had up to 200 people out on strike, but BHR spokeswoman Alliea Phipps noted that not all of the employees were visible on the strike lines.

On Tuesday, a full day after the strike ended, Phipps says that no negotiations had been set up and both sides remain at an impasse.

“I wish I had better news to tell you, but nothing’s really changed,” Phipps said.

Workers chose to keep the strike limited to just the weekend in hopes of not hurting their low income patients as much, Gray said.

“We can’t keep bailing out BHR,” Gray said. “We’re happy to help and we love our work and our clients, but it’s time for a change.”

Rita Niles, a crisis interventionist in Hoquiam, stood outside of the Elma office in the rain and wind because she said the public needed to know what was happening.

Niles said BHR consistently hands out low wages and now wants to increase health care costs on its employees.

“We have to have a Masters degree for this job and yet our pay doesn’t reflect it and the only real perk we have in this job is that our health care is 100 percent paid for,” Gray said. “They want to take that away and that’s not right.”

Phipps says that BHR can no longer afford to pay 100 percent of the health care costs because of increased costs. Union members say the mental health provider should look at reforms before cutting into their benefits.