Bargaining-Session Update: May 14 Economic Counterproposals

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Today was our final day at the table before mediation starts next week. As the expiration date of our current contract draws closer, it’s more important than ever that our members are paying attention to bargaining and participating in bargaining-related activities:

    • Take our bargaining survey to give our union direction during mediation and let us know your thoughts re: settling vs. striking.
    • Attend our town hall on Wednesday, May 22, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in UHS 8B60.
    • Attend our informational picket and BBQ! Join your coworkers at this family-friendly event on Thursday, June 13, at 4:00 p.m. This march will be one of the best tools we have, short of a strike, to show OHSU the strength of our opposition to the take-backs it has proposed. 
    • Start thinking about what you’re willing to do to prevent OHSU’s bad proposals from going into effect. OHSU proposes financial take-backs every contract because it thinks our members will just accept it, but you have the power to tell OHSU that enough is enough. Read our strike FAQ and then read our “S Word” article for steps you can take now to prepare financially in the event our union goes on strike.

Buckle up — today OHSU finally responded to our economic proposals. (See our April 2 and April 9 bargaining updates for details about our proposals.) It’s not good news:

    • 7.7 Time Off Between Regularly Scheduled Shifts: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 8.2.2 Longevity Rate: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 9.1.4 Scheduling & Assignment of Overtime: OHSU countered our proposal for penalty pay after an employee works more than 16 hours in a 24-hour period by stipulating that this additional pay would be applicable after 16 consecutive hours.
    • Weekend Differential: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • Float Differential: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • Advanced Certification Differential: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • Preceptor Work: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 22.1.3 Tuition Discounts: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 22.2 Requirements of Job Position: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 28 Labor Management Committee: OHSU approved funding to maintain Labor Management Committee activities (including the Career and Workplace Enhancement Center) for three years.
    • Appendix A: Contract Variations Applicable to Salaried Employees: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • Free TriMet Bus Passes: OHSU rejected our proposal, but offered to not increase the cost of TriMet passes for AFSCME employees for the duration of the new contract.
    • PERS Pension Rates: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 403(b) Contribution Match: OHSU rejected our proposal.
    • 8.1 Across the Board Increases: OHSU proposed an effective 1.0% raise for each year of a three-year contract. We say “an effective 1.0%” here because OHSU proposed 1.5% increases, but would withhold 0.5% to help address its pay inequities. It also proposed additional pay increases for employees who make $19.23/hour or less.

In addition to rejecting our economic proposals, OHSU is standing firm on its insurance take-backs and its unpopular PTO proposal, making some small movements in a few areas. Check out the details here.

During its presentation this afternoon, OHSU made it clear that it (a) doesn’t feel its current financial position is as exceptional as we do, (b) feels that members of our bargaining unit are compensated well above market and (c) feels that its proposed insurance take-backs are modest and that our insurance benefits will remain “rich” even after the take-backs. Undoubtedly, OHSU’s bargaining-update email will contain bells and whistles to convince our members that it can’t afford any of our economic proposals and that what it has proposed is all that our members deserve (or don’t deserve). Do you agree? How would your pay be affected if all of OHSU’s proposals went into effect as they currently stand?

OHSU’s compensation FAQ states that “Many people choose to work at OHSU because they believe in its mission. When people look at the pay and benefits at OHSU, and consider the chance to do meaningful, rewarding work, the clear choice should be to join — and stay — at OHSU.” It actually seems as if the employer expects us to stay at OHSU merely for the chance to do meaningful work, rather than for pay that keeps up with the cost of living and benefits that are affordable. As you ponder the above and perhaps wonder why OHSU doesn’t seem to value the work done by AFSCME-represented employees, you should know that OHSU executives received $1.4 million in bonuses in 2018 — in addition to their $30 million in base pay. (A copy of the article from the Lund Report will be attached to today’s bargaining-update email.)

Finally, and we can’t stress this enough: If you are upset by OHSU’s take-backs and its rejection of our economic proposals, you must act to keep them from becoming reality: take the survey, show up at the town hall, show up at the informational picket and make sure your coworkers know about the type of contract OHSU is proposing for us. OHSU is counting on its assumption that our members aren’t willing to withhold their labor for a short time in order to win a fair contract — will you prove OHSU wrong? We need to tell OHSU “enough is enough” now.

Bargaining-Session Update: May 14 Counterproposals and Tentative Agreements

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In addition to the counterproposals to Local 328’s economic proposals, management’s team also presented the following counterproposals:

    • PTO Package: OHSU made some movement here, primarily in the area of voluntary cash-out. Last week we proposed a cash-out of up to 80 hours; OHSU today countered with a cash-out of 40 hours or 80 hours.
    • 15.2.1 Insurance Contributions: OHSU continues to propose cutting its insurance contribution to 95% for employee-only coverage and to 83% for other coverages, but now only if the employee makes more than $19.23/hour.
    • 15.2.3 Maximum Annual Contribution Increase: OHSU has not moved in this area. Currently, premium increases of up to 10% are covered by the employer. OHSU continues to propose reducing that to 5%, meaning that employees would have to pay for any premium increases over that amount.
    • Spousal Surcharge: OHSU continues to propose a $100/month spousal surcharge for employees whose spouses use OHSU health insurance as their primary coverage instead of the insurance offered by their own employers, but now only if the employee makes more than $19.23/hour.
    • Appendix C — Employee Benefits Council: OHSU has not moved in this area. Currently, the EBC must come to a collaborative agreement before OHSU can make significant changes to our benefits plan design, in a model that’s worked well for decades. OHSU is proposing removing the EBC’s decision-making power so that benefits changes will be decided by a single executive. This would mean that OHSU could ultimately disregard its employees’ voices when making changes to benefits.
    • 5.28 Relief Employees: OHSU continues to propose that relief employees be available to work between two and six hours (a change from the current four hours) on either a pre- or post-schedule basis, but stated a willingness to work together on the matter.
    • 7.4 Availability of Additional Work: OHSU continues to propose language that would allow managers to not go by seniority when assigning work to cover a short-notice call-out (e.g., someone calling in sick).
    • 18.1.1 Posting and Awarding of Position: OHSU continues to reject our proposal to give salaried employees the option to convert to hourly when bidding on a position.
    • 23.1.2 Suspension of Seniority Rights: OHSU continues to reject our proposal to strike this language. (This language has only been used a couple of times over the course of a four-year contract, so Local 328 feels there isn’t a need for it to remain in the contract.)

In the afternoon, Local 328 re-presented our previous counterproposals, rejecting OHSU’s insurance take-backs.

A word about the $19.23/hour threshold that OHSU has proposed for a number of its proposals: Our union is glad that OHSU has recognized that its insurance take-backs would be especially hard on the lowest-paid members of our bargaining unit. However, we continue to believe that these take-backs are unnecessary for any of our members given OHSU’s record financial success. Our union represents all employees in the bargaining unit and we don’t support a two-tier system that would divide our members. We are stronger together. This article explains how employers often propose different benefits and compensation for different sets of employees within a bargaining unit, in an effort to weaken the union by driving a wedge between workers.  

Local 328 and OHSU reached tentative agreements today on the following sections of the contract:

    • 15.1.1/15.1.4/15.1.5/15.3/15.3.1 Eligibility & Default Coverage — These sections relate to the default coverage for benefits for new employees. New employees with an FTE of 0.75 or greater will be automatically enrolled in employee-only OHSU PPO, Delta dental, core vision and core life insurance and will have 31 days from hire to update their benefits as they choose. Employees with an FTE of less than 0.75 will not be automatically enrolled, but if they don’t make a benefits selection within 31 days, then they will be enrolled into the above default benefits.
    • 15.2 Insurance Contributions — This section has been updated with definitions of full-time and part-time employees.
    • 15.2.4 Employee Premium Deduction — This section has been updated with a change to when insurance premiums are deducted from employees’ pay. This is change essentially reflects current practice.
    • 18.1.2 Placement/18.2.4 Provisions Applicable to Internal Applicants Only — Our contract will retain the language stating that employees will be placed into new internal positions no later than four weeks after being selected for a position. Employees will have the option to negotiate a different timeline upon request.

OHSU’s Pay-Equity Package Proposal

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Many of you may be wondering the status of the pay-equity package OHSU proposed on April 23. OHSU presented the package as its solution to legal requirements of Oregon’s Pay Equity Law that went into effect on January 1. A copy of OHSU’s full proposal will be attached to today’s bargaining-update email. Components of this package include:

  • Suspending annual reviews done by the Market-Based Wage Committee for the duration of the new contract.
  • Changing the pay rate associated with voluntary and involuntary demotions,  with promotions and lateral transfers and with upward, downward and lateral reclassifications.
  • Eliminating progression increases in some cases.
  • Holding back from any across-the-board increases, for the duration of the contract, the equivalent of 0.5% of the bargaining unit’s base wages “in order to address pay equity.”

If you review the information at the link above, you will note that the law is intended to protect employees who are members of a protected class. OHSU has not been using the term “protected class” in its rationale at the bargaining table or in its communications about this proposal, which Local 328 finds troubling. Our union is working with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries and with Oregon AFSCME’s legal staff to ensure that OHSU’s compliance with this law does not unnecessarily burden our members and that this proposal is not used as a means for OHSU to cut its payroll expenses. If OHSU has employees who have been underpaid due to their status as a member of a protected class, we strongly support the employer’s efforts to remedy this. We are opposed to the idea that OHSU should use our members’ pay to help it resolve possible discriminatory compensation practices.

We have not yet responded to OHSU’s proposal. We will share more information as soon as it becomes available. Please share your questions and concerns here in the meantime.

About OHSU’s May 10 Bargaining Update…

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A number of our members have raised an eyebrow at some of OHSU’s communications, and management has taken exception to some of Local 328’s communications. This is to be expected during contract negotiations — both sides will, of course, present their proposals in a way that aims to persuade readers of the proposals’ merits. That being said, OHSU made a few points in its last bargaining update that we’d like to address:

  • OHSU stated that “AFSCME largely rejected OHSU’s PTO and related benefits proposals…” Of course we did! Our members have resoundingly said “No PTO” since 2017, so that will be our bargaining team’s position at the table. The “related benefits proposals” are take-backs (in a time of record prosperity for OHSU) that will hurt our members financially, so our union is going to fight them.
  • OHSU stated that it was “disappointed that AFSCME did not meaningfully engage with us to help create a more competitive and market-appropriate benefits system.” Our union, of course, wants OHSU to be and remain financially successful. That being said, we are bargaining for a fair contract for our members — that’s our priority. We are disappointed that OHSU has proposed so many unnecessary take-backs, and we don’t agree that it is Local 328’s responsibility to ensure that OHSU is “more competitive.” (In addition, it seems that OHSU focuses on making itself competitive for faculty recruitment, rather than in ways that would help our members.)
  • OHSU stated that AFSCME “rejected a pilot program to test out” a new system to increase paid and release hours for union executives. We believe this statement goes a bit beyond spin. OHSU had proposed a memorandum of understanding that outlined a concept in which OHSU would grant 40 hours of paid release time per week to be used by Local 328’s president, vice president and chief steward, in percentages determined by our union. We countered with a slightly tweaked version of the MOU, which included formatting changes as well as non-substantive changes such as referring to time spent “on matters undertaken at the behest of the Employer (e.g., appointment to and work done for Employer committees)” instead of “on matters directed by the committees of the Employer, or otherwise at the behest of the Employer.” We also proposed eliminating the language stating that MOU would expire two years after the effective date of the new contract. Local 328 did not “reject” OHSU’s proposal.
  • OHSU stated that our counterproposal “maintained the inequitable system of some stewards receiving overtime for union work, and others not.” This references OHSU’s proposal that the time spent by our stewards — time spent on work that benefits OHSU as well as our union — would no longer count toward overtime. None of our stewards have complained about the current system or stated that they’re concerned that the way they receive overtime is “inequitable,” so why has OHSU really proposed this? Our union has a number of concerns about this proposal — it would create financial hardship for many of our current stewards, would potentially dampen our union’s ability to recruit new stewards and could chill union activity. We remain strongly opposed to this proposal. (Note: Stewards are never paid overtime for their steward work; this proposal would affect their ability to earn overtime for OHSU work.)

Strike FAQ

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Below is a comprehensive strike-related FAQ that we hope is helpful to our members. If you have additional questions after reviewing this information, please ask in the comments.

Q: What happens if the Local 328 and OHSU bargaining teams can’t reach agreement by the end of our contract (June 30)? A: A better question might be “What if the teams aren’t continuing movement toward an agreement by the end of our contract?” It’s a well-established practice to temporarily extend a contract as negotiations require. Some members may recall our 2012 contract negotiations, which were extended into September. If movement isn’t being made, though, either party can declare impasse.

Q: What is a strike? A: A strike is a mass work stoppage by employees, used at times to prevent an employer from forcing economic concessions and take-backs on employees. Typically, a strike is used as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. For a union to go on strike, a strong majority of its membership must support the strike. A strike is usually reserved for when an employer is being especially unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary with its demands and conditions. Unions get their power from their members’ willingness to withhold their labor.

Q: What can we do to avoid a strike? A: The best way to avoid a strike is to let OHSU know that you’re paying attention and taking bargaining seriously. In addition:

  • If you haven’t yet done so, please take our current bargaining survey and make your voice heard. We’ll be using your our members’ feedback to shape our strategy during mediation.
  • Attend the upcoming joint OHSU/AFSCME town hall on Wednesday, May 22, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in UHS 8B60. OHSU will have the opportunity to explain its proposals and you will have the opportunity to share how OHSU’s take-backs will impact you and your family.
  • ATTEND OUR INFORMATIONAL PICKET! On Thursday, June 13, Local 328 members and our allies and community will march on Marquam Hill from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and then enjoy a member-appreciation BBQ/picnic on the Mac Hall lawn. Families are welcome. Short of a strike, this picket will be one of the best tools we have to show how OHSU that its record profits shouldn’t mean record out of pockets for the employees who’ve helped OHSU become so successful.
  • Like us on Facebook and Twitter and share our posts and tweets.
  • Visit our blog on a regular basis and leave comments. We know that management reads our blog, so this is a way to make your voice heard.
  • Wear green on Tuesdays.
  • Hold work-unit events to build solidarity. (We can send you green doughnuts for unity breaks!)
  • Talk to your unit steward about Local 328 events in your area. If you don’t have a unit steward, consider becoming the unit steward for your area — email us for more information.

Q: How would Local 328 call a strike? A: Our members would be given advance notice of the date for a strike vote to take place. Over the voting period, members will vote by a private, secure ballot. There will be resources available for members who need help casting their ballots. A variety of materials will also be available to help members understand the stakes and what exactly their vote is authorizing. There are many steps to even get to this point, though. After impasse is declared, our union would have seven days to present a final offer and then there would be a 30-day cooling-off period; following that, after 10 day’s notice, a strike vote would take place.

Q: Do I have to be a dues-paying member to vote on a strike? A: Yes — decisions like this will always only be made by our dues-paying membership. If you’re a represented employee who is not currently paying dues, you may sign a union membership card and participate in the strike vote.

Q: Does Local 328 have any official policies/procedures regarding strikes? A: Going out on a strike is a very serious thing. It disrupts the lives of our members and their families, our patients, our colleagues and our communities. Local 328 policy states that in in order for a strike to be called, it has to be supported by 60% of our membership. That’s not 60% of those voting — that’s 60% of the full dues-paying membership. Why is the threshold so high? If our members can’t be bothered to vote on whether to strike, the idea our union could sustain a successful strike isn’t realistic.

Q: What happens if OHSU is still proposing take-backs at the end of bargaining but Local 328 members don’t want to strike? A: Ultimately, OHSU would be able to implement its final proposal, which will likely include PTO, cuts to vacation cash-out, health-insurance take-backs, wage increases that don’t keep up with cost of living, stricter monitoring of attendance and other language that will hurt our members financially and make OHSU a worse place to work. Our members must be willing to take direct action themselves — including by going out on strike if needed — to prevent OHSU’s bad proposals from going into effect.

Q: If Local 328 calls a strike, do I have to go out and walk the picket line? A: If our union calls a strike, it will be because thousands and thousands of AFSCME-represented OHSU employees have found OHSU’s proposals so intolerable that they were willing to walk off the job. PLEASE join them on the picket line. Having a strong picket line every day of a strike is crucial. A well-attended picket line ensures the strike continues to receive the attention it needs — from OHSU, of course, and from patients, the media and other supporters. If you can’t join us on the picket line, consider other actions in support of the strike: write letters to the editor, participate in community-service projects, call your elected officials, speak at public meetings and otherwise try to raise awareness of the strike. The public must be aware of what we’re striking for.

Q: If our union is out on strike, what happens if I cross the picket line? A: First, if you plan on crossing the picket line when our union is on strike, please vote against a strike. Recognizing that a strong majority of your peers and coworkers will be financially sacrificing to improve your wages and working conditions — do you have to strike? No, and our union does not fine strike-breakers. However, by crossing the picket line, you would be weakening the strike, hurting your coworkers who are out on the picket line and threatening everyone’s chances to get a fair contract.

Q: What will happen to the patients if I go out on strike? A: OHSU has been preparing for the possibility of a strike since early in bargaining. OHSU will have ample time to prepare for any mission-critical staffing and ensure patient safety.

Q: What’s expected of non-members during the strike? A: Nothing, but we’d love the support of non-members in any way they choose to show it.

Q: Will Local 328 help cover my wages while I’m out on strike? A: Per our union’s constitution, we are required to have a contract-defense fund, aka a strike fund. Typically these funds are used for expenses related to contract bargaining or advanced representation (e.g., for arbitrations). Practically speaking, if we wanted to provide every member $500 at the start of a strike, it would cost about $3,000,000; unfortunately, our treasury can’t sustain that sort of expense. For members who would be in financial need, we do have relationships with the Oregon Food Bank and Labor’s Community Service Agency. We also would call upon all available resources available to us from Oregon AFSCME Council 75, the Oregon AFL-CIO, AFSCME International and any other supportive organizations.

Q: What happens to my health-insurance coverage if I go out on strike? A: OHSU is pay-as-you-go, which means that if you work even one day in a month you have health-insurance coverage for the whole month. We would time any strike so that members would be guaranteed a month of health-insurance coverage while on strike.

Q: What if I don’t think I can afford to go on strike? A: This concern is understood and respected. We would first encourage you to read our “S Word” article about financial options that can help during a strike. We would also ask you to weigh the cost of a strike to you personally vs. the cost to you for two years’ worth of OHSU’s take-backs. It’s likely that the long-term financial gains of a good contract would greatly outweigh the wages lost during an effective strike.

Q: Can I use vacation or sick accruals, or comp time, to cover my pay while I’m on strike? A: No — accruals cannot be used while an employee is on strike.

Q: What if I have vacation pre-approved and we end up going on strike during that time? Can I still take my vacation? A: Probably not. OHSU would most likely declare an emergency and cancel vacations. Our union would grieve this, but by the time the grievance process ran its course, the strike would be over. If OHSU cancels your vacation and orders you to work, you have the legal right to inform your manager that you are on strike and will not be returning to work until the strike is settled, but you wouldn’t get to use your vacation accruals.

Q: Can I work remotely during a strike? A: Virtually crossing a picket line is the same as physically crossing a picket line.

Q: How long would we need to be on strike? A: There really is no way to predict this. However, the more employees who go out and stay out, the greater the pressure put on the employer to settle and the more quickly the strike should be resolved.

Q: Can I be fired or otherwise retaliated against for going on strike? A: Absolutely not. Striking is a legally protected activity.

Q: What does the Local 328 bargaining team and member leadership do during a strike? Are they paid during a strike? A: All bargaining-team members, all members out on paid union leave to help with bargaining and all executive-board members are expected to walk the picket line, as well as participate in applicable meetings and events. None of the above parties would be paid during a strike; monthly officer stipends would be not be paid (or, if applicable, would be pro-rated based on the length of the strike).

Q: Do strikes work? A: From the Flint autoworkers’ sit-down strike, to the AFSCME Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, to the waves of teacher strikes over the last couple of years, strikes have absolutely worked and shaped working conditions and community standards for working people all across the country, not just for union members.

Q: How often does bargaining happen? A: It varies. Our current contract is a four-year agreement, and we’ve previously had three-year contracts. This year, Local 328 has proposed a two-year contract. All of these are considered typical.

Q: What if I’m unhappy about the outcome after everything is said and done and we finally have a new contract? A: Why not consider getting involved and taking action NOW — it’s not too late to help our union avoid a contract that you would unhappy with! Forward our emails to and talk with your coworkers, comment on our blog, take our bargaining survey, and participate in our actions and events to start. After our next contract is ratified, there is a lot you can do to get involved: observe a board meeting, write an article for our blog, become a steward or run for an executive-board seat (all of our board positions are up for election this fall). Assuming we reach an agreement on a two-year contract, we will back at the bargaining table with OHSU in only 16 months. Start thinking about the issues now and start talking to your coworkers now. What is a priority issue that OHSU didn’t recognize this time? How can we organize to win on this issue? Consider running for the bargaining team or the strike-preparation committee we’ll be forming for future contract negotiations (details to be announced at a later date).

Don’t Forget to Take Our Bargaining Survey!

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If you haven’t already done so, please take our bargaining survey as soon as possible and make sure your coworkers know the importance of taking the survey. It should take less than 10 minutes to complete.

While we very much appreciate our members’ comments here on the blog, it’s the turn-out for and responses to this survey that will play a pivotal role in our union’s strategies at the bargaining table once we start mediation on May 21.

The “S Word”

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—guest post by board member Christine Murray—

The stewards and member leaders of AFSCME Local 328 have received more than a few inquiries about the possibility of a strike. It’s not hard to see why after reviewing the proposals made by OHSU during bargaining. For most of our members, the idea of going on strike is uncharted territory and there are many questions. This article hopes to answer some of these questions and help our members make decisions about preparing for a possible strike.

The word “strike” is not one to be used lightly when a union is in negotiations with management. A strike is the most powerful tool our union has when it comes to forcing management to deal honestly and fairly with our membership. It is also a tool of last resort. There are still many weeks of negotiation ahead of us, and there are many other actions our union can take to put pressure on management and encourage OHSU to deal fairly with us.

Still, the possibility exists that OHSU will persist in offering us an unfair contract that increases our health-insurance costs (reduced premium contributions, spousal surcharge), reduces our vacation time and restricts our access to sick time (PTO), imposes a harsher attendance policy (three occurrences in a 160-day period may trigger discipline) and forces employees to stay in their old department for up to eight weeks before they can transfer to a new position at OHSU. OHSU might also continue to insist that the cost of correcting a history of inequitable pay for women and minorities should be borne by AFSCME members, in the form of denying us our earned progression increases and holding back a portion of our across-the-board raises. If this happens, our members will have to make some choices.

The first thing to know is that Local 328 leadership does not make the decision to strike. It is a decision we all make together as dues-paying members. When OHSU’s final proposal is offered to AFSCME, we will vote to accept it or reject it. This means that the most important thing our members can do to prepare is to stay informed about where our negotiations stand and be ready to vote when the time comes. Low turnout means that our members could wind up having to accept an inadequate contract they do not agree with and which hurts them financially. It is absolutely critical that all members vote both in the current bargaining survey and on the proposed contract later on!

The second thing to know is that every member needs to be preparing right now for the possibility of a strike. OHSU is already preparing. Yes, you read that right. OHSU is already making plans for a potential strike, so it is not enough for us to simply be angry about management’s proposed take-backs during a time of record profit. With $1.5 billion cash on hand, you can bet OHSU will be well prepared should it come to a strike — if we want to be successful, then we need to be prepared, too. The threat of a strike only has power if the members of Local 328 can and will carry out that threat — to do that we must stick together and prepare.

A strike can last a few days or several weeks — the more employees who go out and stay out, the greater the pressure on the employer to settle quickly. To be clear, it is by no means certain that Local 328 will need to strike. We have much more work to do before things get to that point. However; having seen what OHSU has proposed to us and knowing that management is already preparing for the possibility of a strike means we need to be ready. So how does one prepare for a strike? Below are a number of steps members can take to prepare financially.

OHSU is in the best financial shape in its history. We all hope that management will remember that it sacrifices made during the recession by AFSCME-represented employees helped OHSU come out strong and healthy and will bargain with us accordingly. But we can’t count on it. Now is the time to prepare. We stand strong when we stand together!

Setting Money Aside

  • Consider changing your W4 withholding status to the maximum amount allowed and putting the extra money into a savings account to be used only in the event of a strike. If you decide to change your withholding status, log into Oracle Employee Self Service and select “W4 Tax Form.” (Be sure to change your status back after the threat of a strike has passed.)
  • Hold off on purchasing discretionary items or taking on any new payments for the duration of negotiations. If you have time off coming up, plan a staycation.
  • Start packing your lunch and bringing coffee from home. Staying away from the cafeterias and coffee stands will increase your savings, plus the decrease in revenue will send a message to OHSU that its employees are preparing.
  • Volunteer for overtime when it’s offered at work and set that money aside.

Dealing with Creditors

  • Contact your landlord or mortgage company now to see if they have programs to work with people on strike. Letting them know ahead of time will help you plan properly.
  • Contact your credit-card companies and negotiate a plan for making payments for the possible duration of a strike. Companies will work with you if you plan ahead.
  • Check whether your utility companies offer the option to equalize monthly payments. If this option is available and will lower your monthly payments, sign up and save the difference.

Making Other Preparations

  • If you and your family have any routine medical needs, make your appointments now. Make sure your prescriptions are refilled—get a three-month supply if you can.
  • Plant a garden. The Oregon Food Bank offers free seeds and starts and many libraries have community seed banks. A small plot can supply a family with a lot of food.
  • Start purchasing extra staples every week. Load up on canned goods and other non-perishable items and fill your freezer. It’s always good to be prepared, and planning ahead now means smaller grocery bills later.
  • Talk to your family, friends, church leaders and other support systems. Let them know you are preparing for the possibility of a strike at work. They may be willing to assist.
  • Start coordinating with family and friends about the helping with childcare during a strike. You may be able to trade days with other AFSCME members or coordinate a group to rotate childcare responsibilities.
  • Update your résumé. Getting a part-time job during a strike is an excellent way to weather the storm during a long strike, if it comes to that.
  • May is the time for voluntary cash-out requests. Consider opting to cash out some of your vacation and comp-time accruals. Due to timing (May requests are paid out in the second half of the year), these funds wouldn’t be available right away, but a financial boost in late summer or early fall could be helpful in the event that our union did end up striking.

Bargaining-Session Update: May 7

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We have another long update for you today! We know this is a lot of information to absorb — if you have any questions at all about the below items, please let us know in the comments.

Local 328 presented about 50 pages of counterproposals to OHSU this morning, including:

  • Paid Time Off: We rejected OHSU’s PTO package proposal, countering with current contract language (i.e., keeping the existing VAC/SIK system). We offered a counterproposal re: the annual voluntary cash-out — accepting the change to one cash-out period per year, but keeping the option to cash out up to 80 hours of VAC. In a number of cases we re-proposed our initial proposals that improve the contract (e.g., increased vacation accruals, removing language re: suspension of seniority rights).
  • Benefits: We rejected OHSU’s proposed cuts to insurance contributions, the spousal surcharge and other benefits take-backs. We rejected OHSU’s proposed changes to disempower the members of the Employee Benefits Council and re-proposed our initial proposal to eliminate the presidential tie-breaker from the EBC language.
  • Article 2 (Stewards): We rejected OHSU’s proposal to make time spent on steward activities for our union and the employer ineligible for overtime. The teams are moving closer to agreement on the total number of stewards and number of hours allocated to each type of steward.
  • Preferred Hire List: Overall, the teams are moving closer to agreement. We re-proposed our initial proposal to add FTE modifications to scenarios that are eligible for layoff protections.
  • Grievance Steps: Both teams have made movement in the contract language regarding the grievance process. We proposed allowing limited information requests at the Step 1 meeting, to help move the grievance process along in a more timely manner. Late in the day OHSU made a counterproposal with some movement toward agreement; a tentative agreement was also reached on one section of this contract language.
  • 2.9.1 Union Communications: We rejected OHSU’s proposal requiring our union to provide the employer with an advance copy of any email we send to all members or to all non-members. Late in the day OHSU re-proposed their language requiring advance copies of our union’s emails. (The current contract only requires such notification when we send an email to the entire bargaining unit.)
  • 7.2.5 Posting of Varying Work Schedules/7.2.6 Changes in Work Location: We are moving closer to agreement on this language, which addresses how work schedules are posted and how changes to an employee’s work location are handled. Late in the day OHSU made a counterproposal with some movement toward agreement.
  • 7.4 Availability of Additional Work: We rejected OHSU’s proposal to bypass seniority when assigning employees for non-overtime work that becomes available due to a short-notice call out (i.e., when someone calls in sick).
  • 23.3.1 Notice: We are moving closer to agreement on changes that will allow the union to better meet the representation needs of swing-shift and night-shift employees. Late in the day OHSU made a counterproposal today with some movement toward agreement. 
  • 23.3.5 When Attendance Is the Issue: We rejected OHSU’s proposal to trigger progressive discipline when an employee has three attendance occurrences in a 180-day period. We proposed maintaining the current language of 90 days. Late in the day OHSU countered with a proposal to count attendance occurrences in a 160-day period.
  • 23.6 Unauthorized Absences: We maintained the language in our initial proposal seeking to clarify that unauthorized absences are limited to no-call no-shows or walk-offs. Late in the day OHSU made a counterproposal today with some movement toward agreement.
  • 29.1 Term of Agreement: We rejected OHSU’s proposal seeking to have economic provisions (e.g, across-the-board wages, changes to differentials) not take effect until two full pay periods after the new contract is ratified. Current language states that all provisions go into effect the first full pay period after ratification. Late in the day OHSU re-proposed delaying the effective date of the economic provisions of the contract.
  • Drug & Alcohol Testing MOU: We agreed to modify this memorandum of understanding to add breathalyzer sampling as an option for testing for alcohol. We rejected OHSU’s proposed language that we see as imposing not-for-cause drug testing.

OHSU has not yet responded to our union’s economic proposals (we will likely see some of these responses next week), but did offer the following counterproposals today: 

  • 18.1.1 Posting & Awarding of Position: OHSU rejected our proposal to add an option for salaried employees to job bid for certain positions as an hourly employee. We responded today by re-proposing our language.
  • 18.1.2 Placement/18.2.4 Provisions Applicable to Internal Applicants Only: OHSU maintained its proposal that would require employees to stay in their old departments for up to eight weeks before releasing them to a new position in another OHSU department. We responded today with a counterproposal to maintain current contract language — our union feels that four weeks is more than adequate for management to handle these transitions.
  • Preferential Hire List: OHSU made a number of PHL-related counterproposals, with movement toward agreement on the following sections of the contract:
    • 5.10 Extended Medical Leave
    • 19.7 Employees Placed on Preferential Hire List
    • 19.7.1 Removal from List
    • 20.2.6 Employees Removed Following Transfer to New Department or Work
    • 20.2.7 Employees Removed Following Transfer Within Department or Work Unit
  • Staffing Task Force MOU: OHSU rejected our memorandum of understanding seeking to establish a task force to discuss concerns re: significant staffing issues.
  • Peer-to-Peer Group Counseling/Support MOU: OHSU accepted the concept behind our MOU seeking to establish a task force on implementing critical-incident debriefing training and group counseling in the wake of difficult/tragic events affecting a work unit. We feel that OHSU’s proposed changes to the MOU will need some revisions to establish sufficient support for members of our bargaining unit, but we were heartened by the afternoon’s discussion.

We are pleased to report that Local 328 and OHSU have reached tentative agreement on more than 20 sections of the contract, including:

  • 2.18 Union Conventions: This new article addresses how departments will cover employee leave when more than one member in a department is elected as a union convention delegate.
  • 7.2.7 Changes to Work Schedules: Language has been added to require 14 days’ notice of schedule changes that are necessary to provide an employee with transitional duty during recovery from an on-the-job injury.
  • 7.12 Inclement Weather/Modified Operations: Changes have been made to seven articles to reflect new terminology (“modified operations” instead of “inclement weather”) and current practice.
  • 14.2.5 Court Appearance: Immigration hearings have been added to the court appearances that are eligible for this type of leave.
  • 14.2.6 Election Leave: This leave has been protected for our members who work in states that don’t have vote by mail.
  • 14.3 Workers Compensation: This information will remain in the contract, instead of being moved elsewhere as OHSU had proposed. Some minor changes have been made to the language, including changing “physician or nurse practitioner” to “medical provider.”
  • 19.5.7 Qualified: We accepted OHSU’s proposed new language clarifying that the employees going on the preferred hire list are responsible for ensuring their application documentation is accurate.
  • 20.2.8 Employees Removed Following Placement Under Section 19.4: We agreed to language specifying that employees may remain on the PHL for one year.
  • 24.1.2 Time Extensions/24.1.4 Grievance of Specific Matters: Changes were made to this language that will help streamline the grievance process.
  • 26.3 Pay to Park Hours: We agreed to non-substantive changes that reflect current practice.
  • 27 Health and Safety: We agreed to non-substantive changes (such as changing “Environmental Health & Radiation Safety” to “Environmental Health & Safety”). Language has also been added to note that employees may contact OSHA directly for assistance.
  • Community Employment Committee MOU: Both teams had presented updates to this memorandum of understanding to reflect its establishment and goals for the future. Our union agreed to OHSU’s proposal.

Upcoming Events & Activities

  • May 1 – mid-June — Bargaining Survey: Take this very important bargaining survey to give our union direction re: settling vs. striking. Since we start mediation on May 21, the sooner you take the survey, the more helpful your feedback will be.  
  • May 22 — Bargaining Town Hall: Attend our next town hall on Wednesday, May 22, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in UHS 8B60. Hollie Hemenway, director of HR and Employee/Labor Relations and a member of OHSU’s bargaining team, will be in attendance.
  • June 13 — Informational Picket: Participate in this event on Marquam Hill at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday, June 13. After the picket, join us for food, drink, and guest speakers. More details will follow soon — in the meantime, share and RSVP to the event on Facebook.

Member Input Needed

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In a perfect world, OHSU would understand that its proposals are unreasonable, unfair and unnecessary and pull them from the table. In the real world, if our members want our union to settle, it is extremely likely that our next agreement will include PTO, higher health-insurance costs, and other undesirable contract language. If, however, our members let us know they are willing to withhold their labor, our bargaining team’s responses to OHSU at the table will reflect the will — and the power — of our membership.

It has never been more important that we hear from our members. Please take our members-only bargaining survey now  and share the link with your AFSCME coworkers. Since we start mediation on May 21, the sooner you take the survey the better.

Our bargaining team has been your voice at the table for months, but we simply cannot fight OHSU’s bad proposals alone. As the end of our current contract nears, we need our members to tell OHSU that enough is enough. In the end, a strong majority of our membership must be willing to take direct action themselves in order to prevent OHSU’s proposals from going into effect.

We don’t have the ability to just say no to OHSU at the bargaining table, unfortunately. Under the PECBA statute, if either team declares impasse and Local 328 is unable to reach an agreement with OHSU after a cooling-off period, OHSU will be able to implement what’s called a last, best and final offer. Unless there is a strike, if this final offer includes PTO and the health-insurance take-backs, then those will go into effect.

While our contract remains in effect until June 30, Local 328 members need to start thinking now about what sort of future they want and what they’re willing to do about it. If the survey responses show that our union has strong member support for a formal work stoppage, that doesn’t mean we will go on strike at this point. A strike is the last option in a long process, and we have a variety of tools we can use before it comes to that.

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