Building Our Union At West Campus

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by Nicole Meck, West Campus Unit Steward

I knew our West Campus had only one union steward so I asked to become a unit steward.  I was lucky that this prompted five of my coworkers to also become unit stewards so we are on our way to making the west campus AFSCME strong.

I like to accomplish things and feel as though I make a difference.  I’m excited by all the opportunities available to me through our union. I feel there are many ways to do this with my union work.  I am hoping to be an asset to my coworkers and to our local 328 Executive Board. I want to continue to learn all I can from our many talented staff and board members.

I work out on OHSU’s west campus at the Oregon National Primate Research Center as a Laboratory Animal Technician 2.  I perform husbandry for our breeding colony.  We have a large campus full of wonderful employees who are all dedicated to the animals we are entrusted with caring for daily.

I was getting very frustrated with our national political climate and wanting to do something but I wasn’t sure what I could do to make a difference. I was tired of clicking a button to show support or marching for this cause or that reason. I wanted to just do more.  I knew I had to find some way to feel more involved.

This is the first job I’ve had where I got to be part of a union.

I began to spend time in the evenings looking over our various AFSCME web sites including Local 328, Council 75, and AFSCME national web pages.  I found many interesting things on these pages.  I was able to read the local 328 news and happenings.  On our council page I found information about PERS, legislation and saw all the committees we have the ability to be on as union members.

I even used our AFSCME Auto Advantage when buying my new car.  I was excited that all this was available to me by just being a union member. When coworkers began asking me questions about our contract, I asked to become a unit steward.  This prompted five of my coworkers to also become unit stewards at the same time.  Our campus had only one steward at the time we were now on our way to building a AFSCME strong group at our west campus.

Since becoming a unit steward I have been to be invited participate in the AFSCME Emerging Leaders program.   I have had a great time learning more about what being a union leader and activist can accomplish.

AFSCME invited me to participate in the lost time program.  During this time I have been working on converting fair share payers to dues members on the West Campus and am proud to say, with the help of the other unit stewards, we have converted many coworkers.  I have also been working on getting AFSCME Strong bulletin boards up in all the work areas so all our members can be kept up to date on the latest news and happenings from AFSCME and our Local.

I had the wonderful experience of getting to work with the AFSCME International team during AFSCME strong week.  I learned so much from this group of talented people.  We knocked on doors to talk to Multnomah county workers about their upcoming contract vote and to make sure they were current dues members so they would get to vote for their contract.

I have also had the pleasure of working with many of the Council 75 and Local 328 staff and have been learning much about our union structure and work that AFSCME does to continue keep us strong.  I’m very excited to have been voted to the local 328 board as At-Large Position 15 and I’m looking forward to learning how I can best serve my west campus coworkers in this position.

I’m excited for the start of our contract negotiations and looking forward to watching how the process goes and getting my brothers and sisters from the west campus excited about and hopefully included in this exciting process.

Biometric screening and the 5% surcharge

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The biggest challenge the Employee Benefits Council faces is keeping health care affordable while maintaining and even increasing the benefits available under the plan. It’s a constant process of looking at what people really use, what is cost effective to provide and bearing in mind that even small increases in costs can have disproportionate impacts on lower wage workers.

OHSU is self-insured and our health insurance rates are a direct result of usage plus an administration fee. There’s really nothing else to it. The more the health plan is used the more it costs.

The less healthy we are, the more we use the plan, and costs go up.

There are many approaches to having a healthier workforce – providing tools for chronic disease management, smoking cessation programs, encouraging exercise and healthier eating.

Another way to contain costs is by early detection of risk factors which may be treated before they escalate to far more expensive illnesses.

Early treatment of high blood pressure with medication is far less expensive than treating stroke victims in the ICU, for one example.

In order to encourage early detection the EBC has agreed that by getting a simple biometric screening, plan participants will be exempted from a 5% surcharge on health benefits.

The biometric screening that will be available would cost about $100 if the test was done on normal PPO insurance. Plan members will not be charged for the screening. The screening we are using is designed to be as noninvasive as possible and still get enough information to aid in early detection and prevention of chronic illness.

The health information obtained by the screening is not accessible by OHSU, they will not get any of the results.

We value our members’ health and we know that we can best provide health insurance security for members and their families into the future by having a healthier workforce.

Regular screenings are an important part of a plan for personal self care. We are also trying to encourage healthy eating by offering free salads to employees once a month in the hope that this one meal will start to raise awareness of the critical role of diet in long term health.

By getting a simple biometric screening you can avoid the 5% surcharge and take a major step toward protecting your health

Local 328 President’s Message On The Freedom Foundation

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Greetings Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME Local 328,

Everyone should have a received an email from OHSU informing you that the Freedom Foundation submitted a public-information request and that OHSU was required to turn over some of your information. Some of you are familiar with the Freedom Foundation, while others may not be. Either way, you probably have questions.

What information did OHSU provide?

OHSU is legally required to share your first and last name, middle initial, work address and work email address. Local 328 recognizes that OHSU didn’t have a choice in this matter, and we appreciate both the invitation to discuss this matter prior to the release of the information and OHSU’s notice to employees that an outside party will receive their contact information.

What is the Freedom Foundation?

The Freedom Foundation is a libertarian organization with offices based in Washington, Oregon and California. It receives funding from the likes of the Walton Family (Walmart), the Koch brothers and the legislative group ALEC (which focuses on banning living wages, privatizing schools, attacking voter rights and advocating for the private prison industry). The Freedom Foundation’s CEO’s stated goal is …”bankrupting and defeating government unions through education, litigation, legislation and community activation.” As public employees at OHSU, our members are now targets of this organization.

Didn’t the union already hold a vote on changing their nonprofit status to protect member information?

There is a difference between a disgruntled member of a huge non-profit demanding a list of confidential information for every represented individual vs. a nefarious organization submitting an information request to a public entity.

Local 328 and Council 75 members voted to set new parameters on who can handle your private information internally, but that vote doesn’t supersede the law.

What should we expect?

It is extremely likely that the Freedom Foundation will be running the data that OHSU gives them through various databases to determine your home address. We know that they have already visited Oregon AFSCME members from other local unions. Freedom Foundation representatives may show up at your home and, through a variety of distorted positions (or outright lies), attempt to convince you drop your union membership.

Why are they doing this?

The Freedom Foundation is part of an extremely well-financed and well-coordinated assault on working people. If they are successful in their end goal of eliminating public-sector unions, the quality of life for working people will diminish, whether they are represented by a union or not.

Labor unions were instrumental in passing a variety of progressive laws on the west coast. Every state has a strong minimum-wage law and a paid-sick-leave law. Contrast that with “right to work” state Idaho, where minimum wage is still stuck at $7.25 and there is no requirement for employers to provide employees with paid or even unpaid (but still protected) sick leave.

With the national decimation of the public-sector unions, private-sector unions would soon face the same fate. (Just look at what happened in Wisconsin.) With no advocates and no ability to collectively bargain, workers will find themselves losing more and more as we enter a national race to the bottom in terms of wages and benefit standards. Imagine a world in which employers and the very wealthy don’t need to negotiate with their workers and any worker who has a problem with that is terminated as an at-will employee. This is exactly the scenario that the Freedom Foundation is trying to achieve for its corporate masters.

So what can we do?

A variety of things!

  • Know the value of your union! Wages, vacation accruals, sick leave, swing- and graveyard-shift differentials, holiday pay, retirement, health-care benefits, your ability to file a grievance over unfair working conditions — ALL of these things and more are jeopardized without your union.
  • If you’re not already a member, sign a membership card online here. The higher our membership numbers, the stronger the message we send that we will not be divided. (This sends a similar message to OHSU, which is very timely given we’re bargaining next year.)
  • Should the Freedom Foundation visit you at your home, know that they don’t have any right to be there against your wishes. Tell them to leave. Call the police and report harassment if needed.
  • Talk to your coworkers. Maybe they received one of these visits. Maybe they take for granted what our contract does for us.
  • Talk to your unit steward. If you don’t have a unit steward in your department, please consider becoming that contact. Email Andy Chavira at Achavira@oregonafscme.org  for more information.

In closing, remember we are all in this together. As we enter a new era of corporate and political attempts to sabotage organized labor, we stand tall.

Our members are keenly aware that no one individual is responsible for our success. Through collective action and caring about each other, we lift each other up and support ideals that leave the world a better place. It’s been said that the only thing necessary for evil to triumph is for good people to do nothing. Your local leadership doesn’t have that fear, because we see good people (our members) doing something every single day.

We reject the Freedom Foundation. We reject what they stand for and the world they want to create. We are stronger together.

Thank you, in solidarity,

Matt Hilton, President

AFSCME Local 328

Why We Do Politics

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by Michael Stewart, Local 328 Vice President

One of the most common concerns I hear as a Local 328 member leader is “I don’t like that our union is involved in politics!” or “I don’t like that our union endorsed a particular candidate.” As much as we would like to avoid politics and the difficulties and polarization that come with it, the truth is that politics is a vital part of what our union does. Not because we choose it to be, but for simple survival and to meet the needs of our members. Examples of how politics on all levels directly affects working families (whether union or non-union) are numerous.

Since the elections of 2010, we have witnessed the targeting of public-employee unions by then newly elected governors and legislatures across the country. Wisconsin and Iowa stand as stark examples of what is at stake for the working class when we fail to directly take on the political threats to our wages, benefits and right to collectively bargain. Anti-worker legislators and governors swept into office in both states. As soon as they were sworn in, they jammed through, often without so much as a public hearing, bills that eliminated fair-share fees, forced yearly recertification of unions, barred automatic dues payments and severely limited or eliminated collective contract bargaining. How has this affected the working families in these areas?

In an article for The Atlantic about the effects of Act 10 in Wisconsin, Alana Semuels discusses how the reduction in union power has affected the middle class. For example, one married couple (both teachers) saw their combined wages decrease by 11%. Overall, teachers have seen an 8% decrease in total compensation. Some teachers have had to take second jobs or leave the field all together. This worsened an already growing teacher shortage in the state. Public employees across the state have suffered similarly. A restriction on the right to collectively bargain wage increases so that they only match the rate of inflation has reduced the upward pressure on wages in the private sector, leading to a flattening of wages and an increase of income inequality within the state.

Oregon AFSCME has a robust and active political department consisting of paid staff and volunteer member leaders, with a very successful PEOPLE program that helps fund our work. As such, we have been mostly successful in helping elect pro-worker legislators and defeating anti-worker candidates and initiatives. I say “mostly” because, despite our union’s best efforts, we have seen the ugly face of anti-worker politics within our own state. In Lane County, where many employees’ wages were as much as 25% below market, management demanded that employees pay more for health insurance and retirement benefits; couple with anemic wage increases, this would have amounted to a decrease in employees’ take-home pay. These unfair demands were not due to a lack of money on the part of the county, but to the political philosophy of a few of the commissioners, one of whom is a Scott Walker protégé. Yamhill County narrowly escaped striking over many of the same demands and conditions of the Lane County strike.

With so much of the well-being of our members and our members’ families riding on the policies and legislation of our governor, legislators, county commissioners and other elected officials, it would be negligent for AFSCME not to be involved in determining who will write policies and legislation as well as helping shape the content of these policies. In my next article I will detail the process used by our union when we endorse a pro-worker candidate, how our fellow members educate elected officials about the work we do and how their legislation impacts that work and how we stay effective despite opposition.

 

Bargaining Timeline

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It may seem early to be talking about bargaining, but to bargain effectively requires a lot of planning and preparation. Here’s a look at a general timeline for our upcoming contract.

When we bargain a contract there are timelines that must be met due to contractual or legal requirements and timelines that we set for ourselves to insure an orderly and strategic progression through the bargaining process.

Our contract expires on June 30, 2019. Settlement could happen on or before that date but our experience tells us that we usually settle in July or August.  Bullets  highlight critical events.

Spring 2017 – Mid-term membership survey by polling firm.

Summer/Fall 2017 – Establish member action team.

Fall 2017 – Begin member education program about bargaining which will continue through bargaining.

Summer 2018 – Nominate bargaining team.

Summer 2018 – Bargaining team candidate panels/campaign.

  • Summer/Fall 2018 – Elect bargaining team.

Summer/Fall 2018 – Train bargaining team.

Fall 2018 – Member forums, informal and formal surveys, unit steward hosted lunch and learns.

Fall/Winter 2018/19 – Work with polling company to develop comprehensive bargaining survey based on member, bargaining team, leadership and staff input.

Winter 2019 – Deploy professional survey.

February 2019 – Pre bargaining discussions with OHSU.

  • March 2019 – Bargaining begins.

March – July 2019 – Weekly, all day, bargaining sessions.

March 2019 – State mediation pre-requested to meet statutory 150 day notice requirement.

  • June 30 2019 – Contract expires.

June – July 2019 – Contract placed in final form and proofread, if settlement has been reached

June – July 2019 – Member ratification vote, if settlement has been reached

  • If Settlement has not been reached then:

July – August 2019 – Mediation, if required.

July – August 2019 – Notice of declaration of impasse, if required

August – September 2019 – Notice of declaration of 30 day cooling off period, if required.

Summer/Fall 2019 – Job actions and picketing, if required

  • August – October 2019 – 10 day strike notice, if required
  • Summer/Fall 2019 – Strike, if required.

Local 328 Committed To More Diverse Leadership

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by Micheal Stewart, Local 328 Vice President.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME Local 328,

Last month I was sworn in as the new vice president of our union. I have been active with both Local 328 and Oregon AFSCME for eight years in several different offices and roles. My goal as a member leader has always been to serve the interests of union members and working families. I consider it a privilege to now serve as your vice president.

Our union is fortunate to have highly skilled, hard-working member leaders who serve on the executive committee and executive board and in the steward program. However, we are lacking a very important element that is vital to any organization that wants to fully and honestly represent its members: diversity. Local 328 has the most diverse membership within Oregon AFSCME in terms of race, ethnicity, age, income level and immigration status — we must strive to develop leadership that is similarly diverse in order to provide a voice for all the members our union represents. The strength that comes from diversity is moral as well as practical.

The moral strength comes from having leaders who share experiences with all of the members who will be affected by our union’s decisions. This is done by making sure members from traditionally marginalized communities are empowered and are given a voice to express their questions, concerns, and satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—with both our union and OHSU.

The practical strength comes from being better able to tackle complex problems from several different points of view, backgrounds, skill sets and experiences. It also helps to avoid groupthink and balance biases that are present whenever a group of people works together to achieve a goal. An article in Understanding Science describes it this way: “[S]cience relies on a diverse community, whose personal views run the gamut: liberal to conservative, tree-hugging to business-friendly … Scientists strive to be impartial and objective … but in those occasional cases in which personal biases sneak in, they are kept in check by a diverse scientific community.” The power that diversity can bring to an organization is very often underestimated or overlooked.

The union movement hasn’t always recognized the value of a diverse membership. This fact was not lost on employers, some of whom have exploited racial, ethnic, and other tensions to pit working people against each other. Because of these past difficulties, it is important that current leaders not merely ask people to step forward but that we actively recruit and invest in an effort to improve diversity. Both unions and employers now recognize that the ethnicity, race, sex, faith, physical abilities, and sexual orientation of workers can be the bond that reaches beyond differences in job classification, wages and education. This bond of shared experience is an asset to any organization that is open, welcoming and willing to learn. AFSCME Local 328 must be such an organization.

Our union is committed to providing the moral and practical strength of diverse member leadership. We are not yet where we should be in order to fulfill this commitment. We are currently developing a plan to reach out to underrepresented members of our union to recruit folks to leadership positions within our union — this will be my top priority as vice president. I ask for your help in fulfilling this commitment. If you or a coworker are interested in or have questions about joining the steward program, executive board or some other form of service to our union, please call (503) 329-9084 or email me at vice-president@local328. With your help, we can make Local 328 an even stronger voice for our members and working families everywhere.

In solidarity,

Michael Stewart, Vice President, AFSCME Local 328

Proposed Changes To Domestic Partner Benefits Delayed

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The OHSU benefits office recently sent an email to employees who currently have domestic partner and domestic partner child coverage. The email read:

“Last year, OHSU announced its intent to end benefits coverage for domestic partners and the children of domestic partners. The Employee Benefits Council recently reviewed this decision and the timing of implementation, and has decided to further postpone this change for an additional year.

 With this delay, all coverage of domestic partners and domestic partner children will continue until Dec. 31, 2019. Employees who wish to add domestic partners or domestic partner children to their benefits may do so through the end of 2018. No new enrollments will be allowed beginning Jan. 1, 2019.

 The EBC will continue to monitor the accessibility of affordable health insurance alternatives and will re-evaluate the proposed change in 2018, prior to its effective date.

 Please contact our office with any questions.

 OHSU Benefits”

As things currently sit, employees may still add domestic partners and dependents thru the end of 2018. The employee benefits council will revisit this topic in 2018 before anything goes into effect.

The decision to offer domestic partner benefits in the first place was made some time ago. The original intent was to offer a benefit for employees who wanted to cover a partner or dependents, but weren’t able to legally marry their partner. After the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, this rationale is no longer valid.

Current marriage options aside, there is still a subset of the OHSU population who prefer to cover their family thru a domestic partner benefit.

While we believe that family is family, there is a very lose definition of what’s required under the current domestic partner language.  The 2017 eligibility language requires that partners: “Currently reside together and intend to do so for the foreseeable future.”

The issue is that some domestic partner employees will change their partners and dependents multiple times within a 12 month time frame. The plan is obligated to cover everyone, every time and it generates a significant cost. While it’s not the role of the EBC to be the lifestyle police, we do have a fiduciary responsibility to our stakeholders on how the health plan is managed and how employees benefit dollars are spent. This type of behavior was never how the benefit was intended to be utilized when it was created.

When the Employee Benefits Council voted to extend the sunset this year, we also were able to change the eligibility language. The new language states: “The two individual have jointly shared the same permanent residence for at least twelve (12) months immediately preceding the addition of the Domestic Partner and intend to continue to indefinitely share the same permanent residence.”

While AFSCME can’t speak for the full EBC, the new language goes into effect in 2018 and we believe it will sufficiently address the problem. Recognizing that, it’s likely that the EBC will vote to lift the sunsets but maintain the new language when this topic is revisited in 2018.

Is Local 328 Switching To A PTO System?

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No. Not unless we agree to, and we haven’t done that.

[Edit] You can download a copy of the PTO proposal here.

Local 328 continues to get questions about PTO in response to OHSU’s recent communication on the subject. While many took the wording in OHSU’s blog post to mean that OHSU is moving forward with PTO even though the nurses did not agree to change to a PTO system in their contract negotiations, what OHSU was communicating is that PTO continues to be a priority for them and that they will go ahead with it for unclassified employees and they will continue to propose it to represented employees.

Local 328 has NOT agreed to a PTO proposal. OHSU cannot simply impose PTO on our bargaining unit without our agreement. OHSU knows this and they have never indicated any attempt to do anything but follow the contract.

We DO have contract language which says we will meet and form a task force with OHSU. A task force is a place where we can discuss PTO, look at possibilities for changes and make recommendations. A task force is not collective bargaining and we are not required to come to a resolution by participating in a task force.

Our contract does NOT obligate us to formally bargain over PTO prior to negotiations in 2019. However, when bargaining begins OHSU may decide to put a PTO proposal on the table.

We are committed to full disclosure and membership involvement and no changes will be made without that discussion and involvement.

At this time only one meeting has been held and that was between OHSU and AFSCME staff for the purpose of allowing OHSU to explain what was being provided to unclassified employees. As of this time OHSU has not contacted to our union to formally propose that the task force be formed and begin meeting. We will let you know if they do.

We will to continue to post updates on our FaceBook page on our blog so that members may comment and share ideas and concerns.

How Do NIH Cuts Affect Local 328 Members?

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IN MY OPINION: By Tara Karnes

How does the National Institutes of Health’s proposed 18% budget cut on research affect me?

I am not in research and my work, as a custodian, seems far removed from the national debate on NIH budget cuts. I mean; a eighteen percent budget cut does not seem like much. So, why would this concern me?

Well, for one thing my job is to clean the Bio Medical Research building at Oregon Health and Science University. And I hear things.

Down those hallways I hear the hum of ultracentrifuges; cranky large freezers holding cells or proteins, and what else… I do not know. I pick up the garbage and sweep up used Pasteur pipettes under the feet of upcoming research scientists. Many of whom, spend hours attached to microscopes like a stereotypical cliché mad scientist. Sweeping underfoot of these researchers I listen to their conversations and concerns, worries and fears about how NIH budget cuts will effect their work, and so… I decide to do some research about this issue on my own.

Here is what I discovered…
The goal of the NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. That sounds pretty good since health care is a major concern for most people. I know this personally; because my daughter had a tumor and was given a cadaver bone transplant replacing a cervical bone in her neck. Knowledge from research allowed a team of doctors repair my daughter’s health.
What does an NIH budget-cut mean?

The proposed budget for NIH is a 18% deficit in their budget. The equivalent of a 5.8 Billion dollars!And according to NIH director, Francis Collins, he says, funding research offers short and long-term benefits, both by developing new treatments for deadly diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as stimulating the economy.
In fact, for every $1.00 invested in the NIH returns $2.00 dollars in goods and services to the economy within a year! That is something we need! Right?!

We not only care about healthcare but we care about our economy too right? I know I do! Our government’s administration has plans to slash NIH overhead cost payments to universities and research institutes. Hey wait a minute! I work at a university and in a research building!

Oregon numbers FY 2016
• $275 million in NIH funding
• 616 NIH grants awarded
• 43 NIH-funded institutions
• 41 NIH-supported clinical trials initiated at Oregon institutions
• 26 Oregon businesses received NIH funding totaling $21 million

Each grant awarded by the NIH means jobs. Not just research jobs, but jobs for students, and office jobs, like clinical coordinators, and of course my JOB! Under each researcher is a host of other jobs that support that research.

That is pretty important is me and it should be to you too!

As a AFSCME union member I want to encourage all fellow members to ask your unit stewards about the NIH budget cuts and how those cuts will effect our OHSU jobs, people you know and the community.

Please feel free to contact me directly at karnes@ohsu.edu
I will be happy to share what I have learned so far in my own research of NIH budget cuts.

If you are as concerned as I am, please email your representative.
To contact, and look up, your personal representative go to http://www.house.gov/representatives and also share your message with:

U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, https://walden.house.gov/contact-greg
U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley https://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact
and Ron Wyden https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact/

Referenced:

https://www.statnews.com/2017/03/16/trump-budget-science-research
https://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2014/04/23/nih-budget-cuts/8056113/
https://www.nih.gov/about-nih/what-we-do/mission-goals

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