All posts by Frank Vehafric

Message From Local 328 President Matt Hillton

Greetings Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME Local 328,

The U.S. Supreme Court has announced its decision in the Janus v. AFSCME Council 31 case. The decision overturns a previous 9-0 precedent that had ensured fair public-sector labor continuity for more than 40 years. Five individual justices have now settled case law that impacts millions of public-sector unionized workers in the United States. This ruling, which our union has been preparing for, creates a more difficult landscape for us to navigate, and inevitability means there will be “free riders” availing themselves of benefits that their coworkers have paid for.

I want to be clear — this case wasn’t brought by chance. There’s a correlation between this case and the work of the Freedom Foundation and other right-wing anti-worker groups. Union density translates to higher wages and better benefits. Weakening public-sector unions will have a negative impact on the earning power of working-class Americans. Income inequality in the United States is at its greatest level since the Great Depression; even so, there’s a select class of people who want to reap even more from an already rigged economy. For example, the type of person who gave $28.5 million in dark money to promote Neil Gorsuch for the U.S. Supreme Court obviously expects a return on his or her investment. The United States is an economic superpower with the largest economy in the world — a weak labor movement ensures that more and more of the wealth created by workers flows to the top 1 percent.

At one point in our country’s history, more than a third of jobs were unionized. Even non-union employers were pressured to keep wages and benefits high, because their employees would otherwise leave and seek better-compensated jobs with union employers. Economic conditions at this time meant that someone could provide for a family and own a home on a single income. In the 1950s, a CEO earned about 20 times more than the typical employee. Today, the average CEO of a large company makes 271 times more than a front-line worker does. In 21 states, the minimum wage is only $7.25. More than half of personal bankruptcies are due to medical bills. Nearly one in three private-sector workers, and 70% of the lowest-paid workers, do not have paid sick time. After decades of corporate attack, private-sector unionism dwindled to 20% in the 1980s and stands at only 6.5% today. Public-sector unions have been the last bastions for working people, at 34.4% membership, but the Janus ruling instantly reduces that number.

Brothers and sisters, know this: In spite of this ruling, our union is still very much here. The Supreme Court can’t take away our union. Billionaires’ money and greed can’t take away our union. OHSU can’t take away our union. Any decision to weaken our union will be made at the individual level.

 You have a choice when it comes to signing your membership card. When Act 10 passed in Wisconsin in 2011, AFSCME represented nearly 63,000 employees. Individuals made the decision to drop their membership, and today that number is less than 20,000. On the flip side, federal-employee unions have been required to survive in a “right to work” environment for some time. This hasn’t stopped the American Federation of Government Employees from growing its membership by 100,000 since 2012. This hasn’t stopped the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82 union in Portland from achieving a membership rate of almost 95 percent.

Our power comes from collective action. Our union’s ability to represent our members’ interests and ensure fairness at OHSU is directly tied to the number of employees who have made the commitment to belong to our union. What kind of union do you want negotiating with OHSU early next year — a weak one or a strong one?

I’m extremely proud of the work done by our union’s member leaders in preparation for the court’s decision. We have consistently budgeted prudently. Over the last few years we have put significant effort into growing our executive board, our steward program and our unit-steward ranks. I thank every activist and volunteer who’s taken the time to talk to coworkers. It’s because of you that our members know the value of our union and it’s because of you that Local 328’s membership numbers keep growing.

In the days ahead, let’s talk. Come to an AFSCME table in the cafeteria. Speak with your unit steward. Email bargaining@local328.org with feedback about contract language you’d like to see. Attend a future bargaining listening session in your department. Be informed. Talk to your coworkers about our union. Consider if you’d like to volunteer in some sort of capacity during negotiations.

Please attend, or watch online, our bargaining town tall on Wednesday, July 11, at 12 noon in UHS 8B60. (The live-stream link will be emailed out the day of the town hall.) After the town hall, dues-paying members will be voting to determine how they want our bargaining team to be structured. We elect our bargaining team in late August.

We are stronger together, and AFSCME strong!

In solidarity,

Matt Hilton, President

AFSCME Local 328

 

Top Ten Contract Articles – Article 8

This is the second in our series of top-ten contract articles. Article 8 deals with what is, for many people, the most important reason to come to work: their pay and their raises. Our contract has extensive language protecting your rights to wages and raises.

There is much in this article that we won’t be able to cover in a one-page tip sheet, but here are the most important highlights (along with the number of the section of our contract where the language appears):

  • Across-the-board raises — This section of our contract deals with our across-the-board raises of 3.0%, 2.25%, 2.25% and 2.5% during the term of the contract. [8.1]
  • Progression increases (formerly known as step increases — How much they are each year? How do they change over the course of your employment? Employees get larger increases early in their tenure and then they decrease over time — it takes about 13 years to reach the top of the pay range. [8.2]
  • Merit increases — Merit increases are PERMITTED by the union contract, no matter what your supervisor says. [8.3]
  • Market-based adjustments — How do they work? Are you under- or overpaid according to the labor market based on surveys? OHSU’s Market-Based Wage Committee, which includes representatives from our union, meets once a year and reviews all AFSCME-represented classifications. [8.4 – 8.4.4]
  • Pay changes upon status changes — How do your wages change when you demote, transfer, promote, get reclassified (upward or downward) and return from layoff? It’s complicated. You will need to read the article to see how your individual circumstances should be handled. Please contact our steward program through the eZone (unionlabor.org/logIn/logIn.cfm) if you need help applying the contract language to your situation. [8.5 – 8.5.4]
  • Travel expenses. [8.6]
  • Your final paycheck when you end your employment at OHSU. [8.7]
  • Under-/overpayments — What happens when you are overpaid or underpaid? You may be required to repay money if you are overpaid; our contract explains the process for that. [8.8]

This tip sheet doesn’t cover everything in Article 8 — to fully understand your rights, please read the contract language (available in the Your Union Contract tab at www.local328.org) or contact one of our stewards for assistance.

Top Ten Contract Articles – Article 7

Article 7 describes hours of work, the rights of employees and the limitations on OHSU.

In this article the goal of our union, generally, is to provide members with tools to obtain the most predictable and consistent work schedule possible. This is important to maintaining a good work/life balance. OHSU feels economic pressure to keep staffing as low as possible in order to control labor costs; its interest is to be able to move employees around and change schedules to meet workload needs. When OHSU talks about “flexibility,” this is what they mean.

There is much in this article that we won’t be able to cover in a one-page tip sheet, but here are the most important highlights (along with the number of the section of our contract where the language appears):

  • It’s possible to place employees on recurring 8-, 10- or 12-hour days. Any regular shift longer than 12 hours cannot be imposed without the consent of the member and our union. [7.2.1]
  • Currently, split shifts are not allowed. If OHSU wants to start using split shifts, it must bargain with our union. [7.2.2]
  • Alternative schedules to meet special needs are permitted if the employee and OHSU agree. [7.2.3]
  • Flexible start and stop times may be available if the member and OHSU agree to a waiver of daily overtime. These waivers are strictly voluntary and are not/may not be required by the employer. The waivers may also be withdrawn at any time by either party. [7.2.4]
  • Work schedules must be posted 28 days in advance. Once posted, they may not be changed without written notice to our union and the member. [7.2.5 – 7.2.7]
  • Part-time employees may not work more than 8 consecutive days except during unforeseen circumstances in which they may work 10 consecutive days. [7.2.9]
  • If an employee’s shift is canceled and s/he is not notified before reporting to work, the employee is guaranteed 4 hours of pay. [7.3]
  • There is a specific order in which employees must be offered extra work. [7.4]
  • Employees are guaranteed a rest and meal period — it is the supervisor’s responsibility to make these available. [7.5 & 7.6]
  • You may be eligible for penalty pay if you do not get enough time off between shifts. [7.7]
  • Employees are allowed to trade shifts with other employees. [7.10]
  • Employees have important rights when OHSU closes parts of its operations due to inclement weather. [7.12]

This doesn’t cover everything in Article 7 — to fully understand your rights, please read the contract language (available in the Your Union Contract tab at www.local328.org) or contact one of our stewards for assistance.

Local 328 Builds Workplace Equity Through Educational Opportunities

by Kate Baker, Local 328 Staff Representative

In developing priorities for the 2015 contract negotiations, AFSCME Local 328 identified that there were significant barriers for lower-wage workers wanting to access educational programs needed to advance within OHSU, which disproportionally affected underrepresented employees. Our union brought the issue of workforce development for low-wage earners to the bargaining table. During negotiations, Local 328 and OHSU formally agreed that recruitment and retention of a more diverse workforce is a priority for both organizations.

As a result, the parties formed the Community Employment Committee, consisting of equal representation from union leadership and OHSU management. The committee is focused on serving AFSCME-represented OHSU employees who are historically underserved and diverse in a variety of ways, including race, ethnicity, veteran status, disability, LGBTQ status and economic hardship. Together, Local 328 and OHSU are coming together to build equity within the workforce through education and new opportunities.

Since its formation, the committee has developed a strategic plan to achieve shared goals of increasing career-development opportunities for employees. One element of that strategic plan has come together in the form of grant funding through the U.S. Department of Labor’s NW Promise diversity grant. This grant will provide forty AFSCME represented employees with free job training for certain positions that require certification, support for testing and a program coach. Eligible employees can receive training in the following jobs:

  • Certified Nursing Assistant 1 and 2
  • Medical Assistant
  • Medical Coding Specialist
  • Patient Access Services Specialist
  • Pharmacy Technician
  • Sterile Processing Technician 2

Chinetta Montgomery, former Local 328 Vice President and one of the leaders on the Community Employment Committee, said: “Collectively our local leadership decided that equity and inclusion should be a bargaining priority in all future contacts starting in 2015. During that bargaining cycle, we addressed many different issues that impacted our bargaining unit including workforce development. It took many conversations internally at our local and with our employer but collectively we reached an agreement that is centered on providing opportunities to our underserved members in AFSCME. ”

The committee has been reviewing applications from more than 200 employees and is starting to announce the recipients.

Contract bargaining is about more than just cost-of-living increases and controlling health-insurance premiums — it’s also about establishing innovative programs to better serve our members and local community. Local 328 looks forward to our 2019 contract negotiations and assuring that our members’ needs are responded to.

What Are The “Top Ten” Contract Articles?

As we prepare for contract bargaining, let’s start taking a deeper look at our contract.

The contract between AFSCME Local 328 and OHSU is a document of about 150 pages, including appendices, letters of agreement and memoranda of understanding. It’s a lot of reading. The core of the contract has 28 articles.

Below is a list of the ten most important contract articles. While there are other extremely important articles not on this list, such as Article 15 – Insurance Benefits, some articles have a more immediate impact on your work life than others. Our union is highlighting these 10 articles because they most affect your day-to-day working conditions. We recommend you read them.

Listed in order of their appearance in the contract, the top ten articles of our contract are:

  • Article 7 – Hours Of Work: Types of work schedules, schedule changes, reporting pay, rest and meal periods, on-call, shift trades, cleanup time, inclement weather.
  • Article 8 – Compensation: Pay schedule, pay increases, merit pay, bonuses, travel pay and expenses, pay upon upward or downward reclassification.
  • Article 9 – Overtime and Premium Pay: Overtime, calculation of overtime, call-back pay, changes in reporting time, pay for holiday work.
  • Article 11 – Holidays: List of holidays, holiday pay, holiday work schedules
  • Article 12 – Vacations: Vacation accrual rates, vacation bid/scheduling process, voluntary cash-out of vacation time.
  • Article 13 – Sick Leave: Sick-leave accrual rates, use of sick leave, doctor’s notes, reasonable grounds, restoration of sick leave, effect on retirement.
  • Article 18 – Filling of Vacancies: Job bids, job postings, internal preference, training positions, OHSU’s right to assign work and change duties.
  • Article 19 – Layoff: Order of layoffs, placement and recall rights, geographical limitations.
  • Article 23 – Discipline and Discharge: Progressive discipline, right to notice of investigative meeting, right to representation, right to just cause for discipline.
  • Article 24 – Grievances and Arbitration: Grievance process, timelines, selection of arbitrators.

Over the next couple of weeks we will be posting a more detailed look at each of these articles. Use the comment section to leave feedback and suggestions about the articles.

Building Our Union At West Campus

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

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

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