All posts by Frank Vehafric

Rehab: Productivity, Timekeeping and Patient Care

Over the last month we’ve published a series of articles outlining our concerns that management’s scheduling and productivity demands have had negative economic, personal, and professional impacts on our members who work in rehab services. It is our opinion that the productivity matrix used by OHSU forces employees to work off the clock in order not to be penalized by management for productivity concerns and to provide the best care possible for our patients.

Not all time spent working off the clock is before or after their shift. Much of this off the clock work occurs during lunch and breaks which are times employees normally do not clock out.

Further, we went to our members and asked them how they would respond to concerns that their problems with the productivity matrix are that they are simply not managing their time well.

In response, Rehab members asked us to share specifics about how the productivity matrix used by OHSU forces them to work off the clock to complete their work, and how it impacts patient care.

As you will read, the issue is not about more efficient use of time but rather about inadequate time scheduled and budgeted by management.

Members tell us that adult outpatient appointments are booked back to back. Documentation time for each patient takes at least 10-15 minutes, if not more. An employee working a ten hour day is expected to treat 12 patients a day. That employee would need at least 120 minutes minimum to complete documentation. However, the amount of time blocked on the schedule for documentation is only 30 minutes.

Members working in pediatrics share similar time needs for documentation. “If we are supposed to see between 7 and 9 patients a day to meet productivity, then we need at least 70 minutes to complete outpatient notes”. Pediatric evaluation appointments are even more complex, requiring at least 50 minutes to score the necessary assessments.

This time is not provided in their schedules.

Also, Inpatient therapists have similar time needs for documentation. They tell us that management claims the non-productive time of their day is for this documentation time, and also for the time they spend on patient care rounds and care conferences.

Members state that this is simply not true.

The non-productive time of their day is the time required to do their work to safely care for medically fragile patients – including necessary chart reviews and coordinating with nursing, respiratory therapists and physicians, in addition to completing documentation.

None of these tasks counts as billable time toward productivity.

The following OHSU rehab management suggestions to improve efficiency and productivity raise ethical and patient care concerns for our members. Each suggestions is followed by the members’ concern in italics.

  • Document in the room or while with a patient to increase billable time. Documentation is not billable time, this is fraud.
  • Limit chart review and clarification of precautions and restrictions with providers. This could lead to unsafe patient care
  • Use students to increase number of patients seen per day and therefore productivity. In some cases this is fraud, potentially unsafe for patients and a disservice to student learning.
  • Save parts of an assessment or evaluation for another day and charge separately for that time. “We’ve been told by management that we don’t have to do a formal assessment on the first day, but the issue is that the assessment needs to get done, and for the most part we need to know where the child is at baseline…assessing the child…is essential, especially when determining numbers of visits and appropriateness of services” This suggestion is unethical and could be considered “un-bundling” of services, which is fraud.
  • Prioritize evaluations over treatments to increase productivity, making the budget more profitable/favorable. This is a disservice to those patients in need of intervention and follow-up care.

Previous articles have addressed the harm to our members’ well-being from OHSU rehab management’s productivity requirements and accounting system. Now, members are sharing the impact this system can have on patient care and services.

OHSU needs to prioritize employee and patient well-being over profit. Members and patients deserve better.

Rehab – Productivity Metrics Lead To Wage and Hour Law Violations, Low Morale, Turnover

By Jackie Lombard

Let’s be clear. No one is saying employees should not be accountable or productive in the OHSU rehab department,

Accountability/productivity is measured by billing CPT codes or “units”. Units can only be billed for direct patient care. They are a volume measurement and do not account for value or quality of service or work.

A problem with the OHSU rehab productivity standard and the system for measuring productivity is that it does not accurately account for the value of the work that cannot be captured by a unit but is none the less required of therapists and desired by the organization. This type of work includes things like documentation, program development, provider conferences, multi-disciplinary rounds, patient care conferences, professional development, teaching, research, publication, administrative tasks and mentoring. The time allocated or allowed for this work is insufficient under the current productivity standard and budget.

Another problem is that the OHSU rehab productivity system in no way accounts for quality as measured by patient functional outcomes or kindness or patience or compassion.

These problems, and attempts to fix them with management, have real negative consequences. First, meeting the productivity standard is a requirement for precepting students and for approval for some types of paid continuing education. The inaccurate productivity system limits professional development of therapists and limits opportunities for education of the next generation of therapy providers. It denies rehab therapists participation in activities essential to and at the core of professionalism.

Second, therapists have been put on work plans or performance improvement plans because they didn’t meet the productivity standard. These therapists are not lazy, or fraudulent, or incompetent in patient care delivery. In fact, they are some of the most skilled, devoted, ethical and hardworking therapists in the department. They are those often tasked with program development or administrative roles essential to OHSU. But they simply don’t bill enough units. And they can’t account for the value of their work any other way. The result of a work plan or even the threat of a work plan is the creation of a chronic ethical dilemma; meet productivity by focusing on billing units above all else or face termination and the inability to support yourself and your family.

A third problem is that questions about the productivity system and barriers to meeting productivity put forth to management go either unacknowledged or disregarded. For example; one manager failed to acknowledge 3 separate emails listing barriers to meeting productivity provided over a 6 week period. The barriers were offered in response to the manager’s request and the emails included solutions to the barriers. The manager finally responded to the last email with “Wow, a lot of ideas”. Another example is that several requests to substantiate the source of the productivity benchmark have simply been ignored. Trying to improve the system is then perceived as futile.

What’s more, expressing concern or opinion about the productivity standard or system of measurement is labeled as “not positive”, “disappointing” and “not team oriented” by management. These labels are discouraging and demoralizing to say the least.

Persistent feelings of futility, discouragement, ethical distress, job insecurity and professional ineffectiveness result in physical, emotional and psychological injury. This harm leads to provider burnout and illness. Is it any wonder that some are tempted to work off the clock to increase productivity and avoid this pain?
OHSU should care about and protect the health and well being of its employees. It is not enough for OSHU rehab management to send email reminders to not skip breaks or lunch or work off the clock while maintaining an inaccurate and unsubstantiated productivity standard and system.

Please, OHSU leadership, make a system that fairly accounts for value and quality, not just volume.

Rehab Concerns: Working Off the Clock, Split Shifts and Curtailment

Over the last month several members of the Rehabilitation Services Department raised concerns about having to work off the clock, being asked to clock out during their shift if not seeing a patient and feeling pressured to clock out during their shifts in order to keep their productivity ratios high. Additionally, legal and ethical concerns were raised over management suggested billing practices in order to improve productivity metrics.

We interviewed members over a period of about two weeks.

  “We are asked to clock out if patients cancel, but patients don’t get charged if they don’t cancel in a timely manner. The assumption is that if a patient cancels we should clock out. But we have work to do other than give treatments to patients. We are left with the choice of working off the clock or clocking out; otherwise our productivity stats suffer.”

“They don’t do shift curtailment per contract, they just curtail based on whether or not individual patients cancel.”

“Employees do charting on lunch, about 90% chart on lunch breaks to get our charts done. If a patient calls in the night before we get told to come in late. I get here early to do chart reviews before my shift starts [without pay]. It’s the only way to keep productivity up.”

“If you don’t keep your productivity numbers up you get denied the opportunity for continuing education, you get emails and phones calls.”

“It’s easier to work off the clock than deal with all that.”

One former member spoke with us shortly after she left OHSU to work at a competing health care facility. They state that:

“75% of therapists chart through their break and lunch.”

“You can go into the break room and see people eating and charting at the same time. Managers see it and they know it’s going on but they don’t say anything to discourage it.”

“If you mention working off the clock in an email they will tell you not to because they know it’s wrong, but they set up conditions so that the only way you can meet productivity is to work off the clock for many people.”

“Productivity is impacted by things therapists have absolutely no control over. They feel that they have to make their units this week so they have to work through lunch to make units.”

Members told us if therapists take paid time to chart, they will not have enough units billed in relation to hours worked to make their productivity standards. Several members also said that consideration is not given that some patient cases require more charting than others, especially evaluations. There is pressure to make productivity even if it means working off the clock.

“Employees are denied the right to get time to do continuing education if they don’t maintain productivity for three months in a row, which creates more pressure to work off the clock.”

“My patient had arrived late but had been told they would get a full treatment. The patient eventually arrived but I didn’t know it so some time had passed. I had told the patient that I would see him for the full treatment and therefore I ran late. [My manager] said I should have been going out to check every five minutes to see if the patient was already there. This discounts the fact that I have lots of other work to do – not just charting, but for complex patients there are other resources and staff that must be engaged in a treatment plan, all that takes time, but it’s time that many therapists put in before their shift starts or after it ends, off the clock.”

This member once asked coworkers how they get their charting done and many of them said that they get here an hour early and open all their charts.

“I definitely stayed late working off the clock frequently.” “They would send emails saying you aren’t supposed to work off the clock, but managers would see people on computers charting well before shift, but would never question whether they were on the clock when they obviously weren’t but, if I mentioned in an email that I was working off the clock, they would tell me I should be on the clock for that. They only seemed to care if there was documentation.”

“Some people were billing three units when they should have been billing one, maybe two. I would only bill them one unit. If I only saw them for fifteen minutes I’m not going to bill for three units.”

Other examples:

“I can’t chart while I am in the room because the patient can’t move, I can’t chart and move them at the same time – [Supervisor] said “maybe you should be billing more units if you are taking more time to document.”

“[Supervisor] is the one who encouraged me to bill more units than I felt comfortable with in the ALS clinic. When she took on this job she knew she was going to do ALS clinic, she shadowed a couple of days, and there were times when I wasn’t making productivity because I stayed clocked in to chart.”

[Supervisor] told the member they could bill units for doing charting but the member contacted the licensing board. The board told the member to contact coding compliance and the member found out that type of billing would have been illegal. The member advised the supervisor but the supervisor never advised the rest of the staff that the practice of billing for charting was inappropriate.

One member was told their time was valuable and that they should bill for it. The member’s response was “if my time is valuable you should pay me for it.” The member would work off the clock at the beginning or end or end of shift but refused to clock out for no shows during the day. “I told [Supervisor] I was not going to clock out in the middle of the shift. The supervisor would make a lot of suggestions about things I could do when I was clocked out like go for a run or do errands.”

“I once billed 45 minutes of OT [the manager] told me to “correct this” or give him an explanation.”

A few days after our initial interview we had an opportunity for a follow up interview with our former member.

“Multiple times when I got messages from supervisors, I’ve been told you should clock out because you have two no shows. You should come in late in the morning if patient cancels”

“It’s not fair to make us clock out to keep our per hour productivity up.”

“The only way therapists have control over productivity is if they clock out when they are not seeing a patient. The effect is that they can’t meet standards unless they are willing to clock out every minute they are not seeing a patient and charting. They have no control over scheduling yet they lose money and opportunity due to scheduling.”

When one member finally got her full time FTE her supervisor told her to develop hand therapy skills. The member said “Sure, when are you going to block time for me to learn?” The manager said “you can come in and shadow on your time off, that’s what previous staff did, they came in early and on their day off to shadow and learn” This member was able to give us the name of at least one other therapist who trained during her time off.

Several other members also had information to share:

“I’ve been told by my supervisors that you need to tell therapists to clock out if they are waiting for a patient.”

“They gave me 45 minutes to prepare for a one hour academic presentation.” When this member said you can’t prepare a one hour presentation in 45 minutes, she was told that she “could do it on her own time.”

They told me that they “need to be billing for all the time you spend in clinic whether you are seeing someone or not.”

“If I work overtime they cancel patients the next day so as not to go over 40 hours per week. Which means some patients aren’t getting seen.”

Fear of Retaliation

We asked one member about working off the clock, clocking out for missed appointments, why people do that, and why more don’t express their concerns over these issues.

She felt that many employees were afraid of retaliation. We asked her what forms perceived retaliation would look like. Her answer:

“Some other examples of why individuals worry about speaking up:

  • Concerned they will not be allowed to change their schedule to desired shift
  • Concerned they will be paged or asked into a meeting where they are confronted
  • Opportunities for continuing education, program development, leadership roles will not be offered to them
  • Removal from leadership and differential paying roles such as Team Lead
  • Concerned they will be assigned to work that is not their preferred work area
  • Concerned they will not be granted exceptions for vacation or schedule conflicts or needs.”
  • Concerned they will be more closely scrutinized for missteps, errors, productivity and then put on a work plan”

OHSU management should:

  • Endorse legal and ethical billing practices
  • Follow labor law and contract provisions for scheduling of work and curtailment
  • Stop perpetuating a culture of fear and retaliation
  • Value all of an employee’s contribution and work by creating systems and environments that pay employees for all of the time to complete the job, not just the billable time.
  • Institute productivity measures that encourage the production of completed staff work and which do not pressure employees to work off the clock to meet standards.

Next article: Staffing and Quality of Care.

Rehab Employees Raise Concerns

Interviews with employees of OHSU’s Rehabilitation Services Department have raised concerns about staffing, patient care, and pervasive contract and labor law violations. In addition issues of internal equity and managerial ethics were also raised. This is the first in a series of reports on these allegations.

All names will be kept confidential in these reports, though more specific information has been shared with OHSU Human Resources and will continue to be shared as we develop it. For now, we are attempting to work with OHSU as we did in the EVS cases, but should grievances and other legal actions become necessary we won’t hesitate to pursue them.

Health Care Benefits

Local 328 Staff were initially contacted by employees who were concerned that they were being unethically denied full time health care benefits by Rehab Services management. According to our union contract there are four classes of represented employees at OHSU – regular FTE employees, relief employees, flex employees, and limited duration employees. In addition, regular FTE employees may be full or part time.

Flex employees do not get health care benefits. Relief employees receive health care benefits based on the number of hours they’ve worked in the previous six months.

Limited duration and regular FTE employees receive health care benefits based on their FTE. LD and Regular FTE employees who are .75 FTE or higher receive full benefits with the maximum employer contribution. Employees between .5 and .75 FTE receive part time benefits which provide the same health plan but with a significantly lower employer contribution, and therefore a much higher out of pocket premium cost for employees.

For the last few years Rehab Services Management has frequently hired therapists as .5 employees, with the notice that extra shifts may be available to be worked. In fact, for many employees those extra shifts were not only available but expected and that extra work resulted in several “part time” employees working full time hours for indefinite periods of time without full time health care benefits. Some employees raised concerns surrounding this without any action from management. Others felt that even though they were losing significant money on their health care benefits, they might face retaliation by losing their extra shifts if they protested about the loss of benefits.

We were given one example of a member who was initially hired on as a flex position in 2015 and was told the flex position would be a way to track hours worked and validate the need for more FTE in the pediatric rehab setting. Her position soon changed to relief and she was able to accrue full time benefits. In September 2017, a .95 employee changed to a .8, making a .15 FTE position available. The relief employee was told if she wanted to maintain her seniority and hours worked, she would have to take the .15 FTE position, otherwise a new hire would have seniority and likely take her hours. In October 2017 she took the .15 FTE out of fear of losing hours worked and routinely worked 30 to 40 hours a week for a year without health care benefits.

Another example is an employee who was a .5 FTE and worked for over a year full time. He requested to receive an increase in his FTE as he needed full time benefits for him and his family. He was told no by management and recently quit to work for Shriners where he now receives full time health care benefits.

Some quotes from union members we interviewed:

“I was hired for Saturday/Sunday and always worked more than that”

“People are being hired under the pretense that these are part time jobs and know they are going to work you more than that and not give you benefits.”

“They don’t hire people with experience because they cost more. They hire new grads because they are cheaper and will put up with not getting benefits.”

“They create unsustainable positions – for example sat/sun only with 10 hours shifts – only desperate people take these jobs and they don’t stay.”

The number of employees working consistently over their FTE has been reduced recently, but for many, in the previous few years, they have lost hundreds of dollars per month in healthcare benefits beginning the day they were hired, with full knowledge by management that they would be routinely expected to work extra shifts. Rehab management frequently frames full time benefits as a privilege and not as a benefit for actual hours worked.

OHSU must end the practice of unethically hiring employees as part time and then working them full time in order to save money on employee health care benefits and must further end the unethical practice of keeping employees who have a demonstrated history of working full time hours listed as part time FTE. It is, perhaps, excusable to hire an employee and not anticipate the number of hours they will actually have to work, it’s an intentional and unethical act to keep them working for months or years in excess of their FTE and not upgrade their FTE status with full knowledge of the negative impact this is having on employee health care benefits.

Next Article: Pervasive Wage and Hour Violations In Rehab Services

 

Top Ten Contract Articles – Article 9 – Overtime and Premium Pay

With contract bargaining coming up it’s helpful to review the contracts most important articles – those articles that have immediate impact on your working life. Check earlier articles in the blog for more contract article information.

Article 9 contains the answers to your questions about overtime and how it is assigned, calculated and paid.

What is overtime?

  • OT is work beyond your regular shift or beyond 40 hours per week. [9.1.1]

How much do I get paid for OT?

  • Time and one half. [9.1.2]

How is OT calculated? What is included in the calculation?

  • OT is calculated on a daily basis, unless you sign a waiver of daily OT — then it’s calculated weekly. All hours worked plus vacation taken count toward OT. [9.1.3]

How is OT scheduled and assigned?

  • Generally OT is offered in seniority order and, if no one volunteers, assigned in reversed seniority order. [9.1.4] (See our Mandatory Overtime tip sheet for more information.)

Can I be required to work OT if I don’t want to?

  • [9.1.4.c] (See our Mandatory Overtime tip sheet for more information.)

How do I get home if I’m required to work late and miss my bus?

  • Under some circumstances, OHSU may be required to pay for a cab for you. [9.1.4.e]

Is there a limit to how many hours I can work?

  • Yes — no more than 16 out of 24 hours. [9.1.4.g]

Is there a limit to how many hours I can be required to work?

  • Yes — you can be “mandatoried” for no more than 60 hours per quarter. [9.1.4.f]

Do I have to take OT earnings in the form of pay?

  • Not always — you may be able to take some as “comp time.” [9.1.5]

Can I be called back to work once I go home for the day?

  • [9.2]

If I’m called in, is there a minimum I must be paid?

  • Yes — two hours. [9.2.1]

Do I get paid extra for working a holiday?

  • Yes — time worked on a holiday is paid at time and one half in addition to any holiday compensation you may be eligible for. [9.4]

If you have any questions about OT work and your rights, please read the contract language (available in the Your Union Contract tab at www.local328.org) or contact your unit steward for additional help.

What You Need To Know Today About The Employee Benefits Council

Why Should You Care About the EBC and Consensus Decision-Making

A Short History of the EBC

First off, what the heck is an EBC anyway? EBC stands for Employee Benefits Council. It’s a group set up by the Local 328 contract to review health-related benefit plans, recommend plan-design changes and review and recommend contracts with various benefit-plan providers. The EBC is made up of 12 representatives: six from management and non-represented employees (managers, supervisors, faculty, research staff and the HR Benefits office) and six union representatives (two from ONA and four from AFSCME).

The EBC was designed to work by consensus; that is, it tries to get unanimous agreement on changes to benefit plans. Plan changes can happen for a variety of reasons. For example, in the years leading up to the implementation of the Affordable Care Act, the EBC tried to contain costs while maximizing coverage in order to avoid paying the so-called “Cadillac tax” that the ACA called for if health-insurance premiums rose above a certain level. Another example is that the EBC chose to limit the massage benefit, because we saw heavy use by very few people, using out of network providers, which drove up premium costs for everyone else.

Choices about changes like this are hard to make, because no matter what we do in the drive to contain costs and provide excellent benefits, some people will feel like they’ve been helped and others will feel like they’ve been hurt. The consensus process is meant to be a check against rash decisions or financial decisions that will disproportionately hurt others. Among the groups represented on the EBC, AFSCME is unique in that we represent employees, in about 300 job classifications, whose wages vary tremendously. We try to ensure that whatever we do, it does not leave our lower-paid workers in a position where they cannot afford their health care. An extra $25 or $50 has a very different impact on someone making $15/hour than it does for someone making $90,000 or more a year.

Through all of the EBC’s decisions, the consensus process has been the glue that has allowed all of the representatives to make decisions that, over the years, have kept our health-care benefits at OHSU affordable and accessible. So what happens when the EBC can’t reach consensus? Well, our contract addresses that. If consensus cannot be reached, then the EBC votes on the decision. Management/OHSU has three votes, ONA has one vote and AFSCME has two votes. If the vote ends in a tie, OHSU’s president casts the tie-breaking vote.

In all our union’s years of sitting on the EBC, we do not recall ever having to vote or ever having OHSU’s president break a tie.

Until now.

Consensus Breaks Down

This year has seen the first cracks in the foundation of consensus decision-making with the EBC. Within the last two months:

  • The EBC was in the final stages of reaching consensus on recommending changing the third-party administrator of our health plan to Aetna from Moda. President Robertson overruled the EBC and decided that OHSU would remain with Moda.
  • The EBC could not reach consensus on whether to offer a high-deductible health plan in addition to our current plan. The chair of the committee moved quickly to a vote and the vote was tied 3-3, with all union votes being against offering such a plan. President Robertson cast the tie-breaking vote in favor of offering a high-deductible health plan.
  • Several years ago the EBC was approached by our consultants with a proposal to raise deductibles rather dramatically, in an attempt to keep premiums down. In a compromise designed to keep health care affordable, the EBC reached consensus to raise deductibles by $25/year over several years. HR Benefits is now proposing throwing this agreement aside and imposing new, dramatically higher deductibles.
  • HR Benefits has also proposed adding a spousal surcharge of $50/month for every employee whose spouse opts for OHSU’s health insurance when they are eligible for health-care coverage through their own employer. Our union contends that a spousal surcharge is a premium increase, not a plan-design change and therefore needs to be raised at the bargaining table not at the EBC. Local 328 has filed a grievance on this matter; our grievance has already been heard by an arbitrator and we are awaiting a decision.

The EBC has functioned by consensus decision-making for more than two decades. The breakdown of that model will have consequences far beyond the meeting room of the EBC. It will be felt in paychecks, at doctors’ offices and at the bargaining table.

 Where Does This Leave Us?

Why is HR Benefits proposing these changes that take money from OHSU’s employees’ pockets? Well, they have been given marching orders to save more than a million dollars on the OHSU’s health-care benefits budget.

Why? We have asked and have not been answered — unless you consider “to maintain the viability of OHSU” to be an answer of sufficient specificity to justify taking money back from our members and other OHSU employees.

Who made this decision? Asked and not answered.

Are these marching orders coming from Huron Consulting Group, which just decided that it would be a swell idea to grab a million or so benefits dollars back from employees? Asked and not answered.

How are management votes tallied at the EBC? Who decided how their three votes are cast? Asked and actually answered: they don’t know. In the one case where we voted, all management representatives were in favor of the high-deductible plan. They haven’t decided what they would do if the management representatives’ votes were ever split.

HR Benefits has indicated that the spousal surcharge will not be dealt with until we get an arbitration decision. Make no mistake — we will deal with the spousal surcharge at the EBC if our union loses the arbitration or at bargaining if we win the arbitration. This is not going away.

The proposed deductible changes will be dealt with at the EBC. The EBC has dealt with deductibles in the past. We suspect we will not reach consensus on ending the compromise deal we made and instead imposing new, higher deductibles. That will force a vote. You can see where this is going.

The move away from consensus decisions in the service of taking dollars away from our members and others — for secretive and unspecified reasons — is profoundly dangerous. The EBC has worked and worked well for more than 20 years — because of the internal checks and balances required by successful use of consensus decision-making.

Forcing votes on contentious issues and letting them be decided by tie-breaker votes by a brand new OHSU president just prior to our union embarking on contract bargaining is a risky proposition for all concerned. It unnecessarily raises the stakes at the bargaining table and, more importantly, undermines a model of labor management cooperation that — in the case of the EBC — has been remarkably effective for more than two decades.

Let us know what you think.

 

 

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.