Summer Celebration — AFSCME Strong BBQ

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It’s been a whirlwind year for Local 328.  Join us at the Mac Hall Fountain on Wednesday, July 13, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. to celebrate with a BBQ lunch. (Food is guaranteed for the first 500 attendees, so don’t wait till the last minute to arrive.)

So, what are we celebrating?

Last summer, our union made a commitment to fight off anti-worker, anti-union efforts in the courts and on the ballot, nationally and at home here in Oregon. The cornerstone of that effort is our AFSCME Strong campaign. The point of the campaign is to solidify our membership so that we maintain a strong union despite the attempts of corporate-sponsored groups to attack our right to collect dues and fair-share fees.

With the assistance of AFSCME International, in January we had a successful weekend blitz where we visited fair-share fee payers and converted more than 250 of them to dues payers.

We embarked on an organizing campaign to create and grow a unit-steward program that would assist us with workplace organizing and help convert existing dues payers to maintenance-of-membership dues payers. To date we have trained and deployed more than 100 unit stewards and are proud to say that in this group of people are some of the smartest, most engaged people we have ever worked with. As they grow with our union, many of them will inevitably move into leadership positions.

Our union is in good hands, now and in the future.

Challenges met.

Our members successfully organized around the plight of Environmental Services (EVS) workers at OHSU. Over the course of last winter and into this spring, were able to work with OHSU to achieve significant changes in the EVS department that will benefit the employees for years to come.

With the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked over the Friedrichs case and let stand a lower court’s decision that affirmed the right of unions to collect fair-share fees. Similar cases are in the pipeline and, inevitably, some of them will make their way to the court after Scalia’s successor is confirmed. The people behind these cases have deep pockets and have been attacking unions for decades. They aren’t quitting any time soon, but the temporary reprieve was welcome and allowed us to focus on preparing for the ballot-measure fight to come.

We were aware of two anti-union measures being circulated that would have had even more devastating effects on public-employee unions than the Supreme Court case. One was being circulated by groups funded by the timber industry and the other by Loren Parks from Nevada. We have been fighting measures like these for years and have developed expertise in fighting them in the courts and through election turnout. This year, the Oregon Supreme Court sided with labor and agreed with the ballot titles assigned by the Secretary of State. These titles did not poll favorably for the measures and one of them was withdrawn. The other is still technically “out there,” but there is no active signature-gathering taking place.

Going back to the days of Bill Sizemore, Oregon has not had an election cycle without an anti-union measure on the ballot. This year may be an exception, but next year and the year after that will not be.

Our future is bright.

We have a lot to celebrate.

  • We have made huge progress toward securing our union’s future against anti-worker attacks that will no doubt continue to challenge us.
  • We have engaged 100 new activists.
  • We have a plan to fight off anti-union attacks and are executing it successfully.

Thank you for being a part of it. Come and celebrate our union with us!

EVS Independent Investigation Results.

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On Monday, June 20th, EVS employees at OHSU received a joint communication from AFSCME and OHSU advising that the independent investigator appointed to look into issues of employee abuse at the OHSU Environmental Services department had completed her work and issued a report.

The report was a comprehensive review of the charges made by AFSCME Local 328 regarding the working conditions of EVS employees, based on in depth interviews with approximately 30 EVS workers.

This independent investigation is unprecedented for OHSU and Local 328 and is a direct result of our members standing up for themselves with on the job actions, their willingness to share their stories publically on social media and in person and their willingness to support each other.

When our Union began this process we had three demands:

  • An independent investigation
  • An effective labor management process where workers can be heard and have their issues addressed
  • A reform of the internal complaint process when workers are victimized by managers or coworkers.

The independent investigation has been completed and a report issued.

The report outlines findings in nine areas where the investigator found evidence to support our union’s claims:

  1. Cultural insensitivity and bias in the workplace
  2. Disrespectful behavior down, up and across the workgroup
  3. Perceived favoritism
  4. Roles, duties and expectations not clear or standardized
  5. Lack of accountability
  6. Operational practices cause lost productivity and waste
  7. Staffing issues
  8. Perceived inconsistent application or disregard of rules
  9. Not enough transparency and communication

Each finding was accompanied by a list of recommendations. OHSU and AFSCME Local 328 have scheduled a series of meetings to review and plan to implement the recommendations. As we implement recommendations we will report to our members on our progress.

The labor/management committee (LMC) is active in Environmental Services.

A facilitator has been hired and the teams for labor and management have been selected. The goal of labor/management meetings are to raise and resolve issues other than contract violations or interpersonal problems – in other words, to look at workplace problems that often get overlooked because communication between workers and management has broken down. Initial meetings of the labor management committee have been effective.  The two teams have already brainstormed a list of potential issues and plan to prioritize them at their next meeting.  Additionally EVS management will begin introducing  LMC representatives at EVS huddles.

The reform of the internal complaint process has not been resolved at this time.

The investigator made some recommendations about the way complaints should be reported but did not make recommendations about changing the complaint process itself. This is an area where we will need to have ongoing discussions before we can report that it has been resolved.

So what does it all mean; what have we learned?

We learned that an active membership raising public awareness of a problem can be a spur to action. We learned that OHSU will respond when presented with compelling evidence. We learned that the best way to get OHSU to respond is for workers to stand together and take the risk of telling their stories about how they are affected by their working conditions.

We’ve learned that OHSU is willing and able to take corrective action AND work in collaboration with the union to make changes when called upon, including personnel changes, when necessary.

We’ve learned that workers really are stronger together.

We want to thank our stewards and leaders, especially Chief Steward Michael Stewart and President Matt Hilton, the members who put their names out publically on social media to tell their stories, the EVS workers who had the courage to meet with the investigator, our members from all over campus who wrote messages of support, wore buttons and attended our vigils, the EVS workers who broke tradition and began speaking out in the morning huddles, the members who were inspired during this time to step up and become unit stewards to help their coworkers, the nurses who wore buttons and supported our EVS workers and everyone else who was touched by the stories of our workers and who didn’t turn a blind eye.

Thank you.

Better Know a Board Member: President Matt Hilton

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Our union’s communications committee is launching a new series of profiles of all of our board members. Our goal is to interview them about OHSU, our union and their life in an effort to help our members get to know our leaders a bit better. First up for this task, Matt Hilton.

Matt works in ITG as a call-center representative. Prior to becoming president of Local 328, he held positions on our union’s political-action committee and executive board. Matt lives in SW Portland with his wife Jamie.

What made you want to work at OHSU?
My strong desire for food and housing.

What is the best part of your job?
I speak with a variety of people every day, and there’s always something new popping up. This is also the least stressful job I’ve ever worked.

What is something you want to change about OHSU?
Every contract shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity for take-backs. That and some sort of profit-sharing system should be introduced. If we can give bonuses to management, what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

How did you get involved in the union?
A coworker encouraged me to become a steward right after my probationary period was up.

What has been your most powerful experience within our union? Leading a rally/press conference/ city-hall sit-in in Detroit, protesting Governor Rick Snyder, for a national AFSCME Next Wave conference was a great experience. I’m also very proud of the settlement we got last contract.

What does a successful next contract look like to you?
Something that’s going to put more money in people’s pockets. Something that will help offset the insane rise in the cost of living here.

Favorite place to grab a bite in Portland?
2:00 a.m. food-cart food can’t be beat.

Favorite beer/drink?
Dark liquor and rocks, or good old fashioned PBR.

Favorite place to hike, swim or generally have fun in Portland?
The Portland rose garden in Washington Park is a gem, and also where I asked my wife to marry me.

If you could eat dinner with one historical figure, who would it be and why?
Hunter S. Thompson, because the conversation wouldn’t be dull.

Most embarrassing fact about yourself that you are willing to share?
During the 2012 AFSCME International convention in Los Angeles, I was passionately trying to convince a homeless man to vote for AFSCME presidential candidate Danny Donahue — until he asked if he could by some meth from me. Then I realized he wasn’t a convention delegate, and that I’d probably imbibed too much at a Next Wave event earlier that evening.

EVS Update

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Some of you may remember the independent investigation that was to happen in the Environmental Services Department (EVS). If not, here’s some background. Back in November 2015, AFSCME began an employee-abuse awareness campaign. For far too long, employees went to OHSU Human Resources, OHSU’s Affirmative Action office, OHSU’s Integrity office and even our union without seeing real change. Our union’s campaign was quickly noticed by HR, OHSU’s legal team and management. We were asked to meet with OHSU representatives and attempt to solve some of the problems the EVS employees were facing.

Local 328 pushed for an independent investigation of the situation and OHSU agreed. Both parties interviewed investigators and Cathryn Dammel was selected to investigate the EVS situation. Since Ms. Dammel was unfamiliar to our members, we wanted a few minutes with each employee to reassure them that they should be very open and honest with her; OHSU agreed.

I do not believe that OHSU thought too much about how it was going to schedule more than 30 hour-long interviews. The EVS employees are not a group of folks that you can simply send an Outlook appointment to—many of them do not use computers. In addition, English is not the first language for the majority of the employees who would be interviewed. Many of them work on the second and third shifts. OHSU gave Local 328 less than 24 hours’ notice of the interview schedules for the employees. We reached out to our stewards for help — even on such short notice, Local 328 steward and board member Bernie Delaney offered to meet almost every employee prior to his/her meeting with the investigator.

The interviews started on March 29—one employee was interviewed that day. On the second day of interviews, only half of the scheduled employees showed up — the others did not because they were not working that day or were unaware that they had been scheduled for an interview. On March 31, OHSU realized that it could not get our members to the interviews without our help. Local 328 steward and board member Debbie Brock Talarsky and staff representative Ross Grami went to work — they spent all of the following day reaching out to the affected members to ensure that the following week of interviews was set. Debbie and another union steward, Johanna Colgrove, escorted almost all of the rest of our folks to their interviews.

This process could not have happened without the dedication of our stewards, Ross and — especially — all of the EVS employees who found the courage to speak up once again about the abuse, this time in hopes that OHSU listens.

Stewards Needed By Local 328

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Local 328 Needs Stewards

Local 328 has three types of stewards – Unit Stewards, Investigatory Stewards and Grievance Stewards.

We are trying to build our Unit Steward program and our goal is to have at least one steward in every work unit. Unit Stewards are membership information  specialists and a resource hub for the work unit. We train unit stewards how to establish good two way communication among members and with our union’s leadership. Unit Stewards are trained in how to direct members to resources that our Union provides, including how to connect with stewards who can help them during investigations and grievances. Unit Stewards receive eight hours of paid training.

Investigatory Stewards, as the name implies, represent employees who are being questioned in interviews which could lead to discipline. Investigatory stewards provide support, educate members about the investigatory process, takes notes to make a record of the interview and may ask clarifying questions to assist in the fact finding process. They do not argue or present cases at these meetings. Investigatory stewards receive four hours of paid training.

Grievance Stewards usually begin as either Investigatory Stewards or Unit Stewards. Grievance Stewards file grievances, argue cases at Step 1 grievance meetings, and use contract interpretation skills to file grievances on subjects other than discipline. Grievance Stewards work closely with and are mentored by Lead Stewards and Union Staff Representatives. Grievance Stewards receive eight hours of paid training in addition to the the training they received as unit stewards and/or investigatory stewards.

Stewards are required to attend one quarterly training meeting and are contractually guaranteed paid release time to attend meetings and perform steward duties.

Our Union has grave need of all three types of stewards right now, but especially Investigatory and Grievance Stewards. Please contact Chief Steward Michael Stewart at chief-steward@local328.org if you are interested in becoming a steward or if you would like to talk more with Michael or a staff person about what it involved in being a Local 328 steward.

Get Nominated – National Convention Delegates Needed

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Nominations Open For AFSCME Convention Delegates

Local 328 members will soon receive an election notice at home about the nomination and election of delegates to the national AFSCME convention. Our national constitution requires the local to send a notice of election to all members at their home address.

But this notice is more than a formality. It’s an opportunity to influence the direction and priorities of both Local 328 and our parent organization Oregon AFSCME Council 75 as well as the national union.

Attending convention as a delegate is a great opportunity to learn about our union, help make important decisions about our union’s future while being mentored by experienced member leaders.

If you are interested in getting involved in our Union, being nominated and elected as a delegate is a great introduction to active unionism. We encourage new leaders to step up and get involved. To nominate someone, follow the instructions on the card you receive in the mail. We will have additional emails and blog articles as the opening date for nominations moves closer.

Expect More Attacks On Unions This Year

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by: Peter Starzynski, Campaign Manager, Keep Oregon Working

The 2016 Legislative Session has come to a close, and Oregon workers have won big: Thanks to the hard work and dedication of a broad coalition led by labor groups, community advocates and our legislative leaders, Oregon now has the highest minimum wage in the country! This is a huge victory for working families, and we are once again leading the way when it comes to policies that work for everyday Oregonians.

While we couldn’t be happier about the passage of the minimum wage increase, we know that when we win these big fights, corporate interests strike back. We’re expecting the big businesses who fought the minimum wage increase to redouble their efforts to attack working families, both at the ballot and in the courts.

Attacks at the Ballot: IP 62 and IP 69

In addition to the landmark minimum wage increase, another recent event is making it more likely that we’ll see even greater attention placed on anti-worker attacks. The unexpected death of Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia all but assures that the Friedrichs decision, which would have dealt a blow to unions nationwide, won’t be decisively determined in 2016. This means the forces behind that court case will do what they’ve done for decades: refocus on the state level. In Oregon, that means ballot measures.

Anti-worker interests are more committed than ever to run ballot measures that would cut wages and benefits for Oregon workers. Corporate lawyer Jill Gibson, who is representing the timber industry on IP 69, recently told Oregon Public Broadcasting in response to Scalia’s passing: “There wasn’t as much need to do it before, but now it’s critical.”

In case you need a refresher on the two anti-worker initiatives making their way to the November ballot, IP 62 is Nevada millionaire Loren Parks’ initiative, which would make it harder for unions to organize in the state by allowing for “free riders” and limiting the activities members pay for. IP 69 would make it harder for unions to organize and would actually require that employers discriminate between union and non-union employees.

The Oregon Supreme Court will be issuing their decision on the ballot titles for these two measures soon, which means you’ll soon start to see paid circulators hitting the streets. If you see anyone collecting signatures for either initiative, please collect as much information as you can and fill out this petition report as soon as you’re able to.

What You Can Do

We need you to stand with us now more than ever. There are three things you can do:

  1. Take the pledge to stand with us and fight back against the attacks facing Oregon workers.
  2. Talk to your co-workers and friends about these initiatives, and ask them to take the pledge, too — we need more working Oregonians to stand with us and fight back.
  3. Let us know about any anti-worker activity you see or hear about! Whether it’s signature collection for anti-worker initiatives, Freedom Foundation representatives showing up at your worksite, or getting anti-worker flyers in the mail, you can help us stay on top of what our opponents are up to by filling out this form.

In solidarity,

Peter Starzynski, Campaign Manager, Keep Oregon Working

 

About That Apology…

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A Rare Retraction

On Feb. 11th our Union posted a story about patient transportation management banning AFSCME badges, then apologizing. While the content of the story remains true, management never issued an apology despite verbally agreeing that that was something they should do.

It is unfortunate that Transportation management has taken that stance. Our union was hoping that by agreeing to pull back on their ban and apologize for the violation of member’s rights we could move on and hopefully see this as a trust building opportunity with department management. Obviously, we were mistaken in attempting to do so, as it seems that was not their intention. However, it is important for our union to be the party acting in good faith.

Members in transportation continue to face treatment that workers should not have to face in 2016. Intimidation for union activity, continued favoritism and many other problems are still rampant in the department. We will be continuing to advocate on our members behalf and will not stop. If you have stories or information about transportation please send them to their Staff Rep. Ross Grami, rgrami@oregonafscme.com.

What Does The Death of Justice Scalia Mean For Unions?

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Many of you know that there is a case pending before the Supreme Court which could dramatically alter the ability of public employee unions to collect agency or “fair share” fees. The case, known as “Friedrichs v California Teachers Association” was heard by the court in January, but no decision has been issued. Most observers of the court projected that unions would lose that case by a 5 to 4 vote. It was widely felt that Justice Scalia would have been one of the majority voting against fair share fees.

Now, with the court divided 4 to 4, the lower court decision, which affirmed the rights of public employee unions to collect fair share fees will stand and public employee unions will continue to collect agency or fair share fees.

The looming Friedrichs case had a galvanizing effect on unions across the country spurring a wave of organizing and rethinking the very nature of the relationship of unions with our members.

This has been a positive development at Local 328, changing everything from how we do new employee orientations, to how we handle grievances, our steward program, membership outreach, our method of communications  and our willingness and desire to use direct member actions to draw attention to and resolve workplace issues.

One thing is certain. This is only a temporary reprieve. There will be new court challenges to unions in the future, there will be statewide ballot measures, there will be attempts to eliminate fair share fees in the legislature.

The well-funded groups attacking unions will view this as a setback, not a defeat. We become complacent at our peril.

As Shaun Richman said in his article for In These Times:

The actual crisis in labor is rooted in a framework that has turned unions into agencies for workers, instead of organizations of workers.”

Read the entire article in In These Times.

There are also good articles in the LA Times, Labor Notes and The Atlantic.

Labor will be missing an opportunity if we do not continue the changes that Friedrichs sparked. We will find ourselves facing that problem again, inevitably.

We have been warned, the rest is up to us.

Patient Transportation Bans AFSCME Badges, Then Apologizes

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AFSCME Local 328 members in patient transportation services were shocked last night when supervisors told them to stop wearing union badge extenders and asked them to turn the badge extenders in to their supervisor.

In an apparent reaction to increased union activity by patient transportation services members, supervisors have engaged in a series of actions which seem designed to intimidate and discourage employees from engaging in protected union activity. Members have been told not to speak with or approach Union staff and stewards while on duty even if the conversation was of the incidental “water cooler” type discussion and not interfering with work.

Union representatives who have gone through proper channels to meet and speak with members on break and lunch times have been denied access to the patient transportation break room and have been relegated to an isolated table away from member traffic areas.

Finally, on Wednesday evening, members were told to remove Union badges and turn them over to management. The OHSU dress code and Oregon labor law protect the right of union members to wear Union buttons and Union insignia.

After consulting with our attorneys on Thursday morning, Union staff members Ross Grami and Kate Baker met with Patient Transportation management. During the meeting management agreed to allow AFSCME members to resume wearing their Union badges.

Management further agreed to issue an apology to the members in Patient Transportation.

Members have the right to wear Union badges throughout OHSU. There are some limitations on badge size. In patient care areas there are some restrictions on the kind of slogans or messages that may appear on a badge or button. However, you are always allowed to proudly identify yourself as a member of our Union.

We want to thank the members in Patient Transportation for standing up for our Union rights.

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