Update: Late Monday night (August 5), OHSU made the following reply to our tweet about this matter: ‘We’re deeply disappointed to learn about this inappropriate conduct on social media. We are sorry. We can confirm that this individual has been removed from our bargaining team, effective immediately, and is prohibited from participating in any future negotiations.“ We will share updates as they become available.
In late July, shortly after we declared impasse, a pair of trolls targeted AFSCME Local 328. At that time, we more or less ignored the tweets. Despite our suspicion about who appeared to be linked to the troll accounts, we chose not to discuss the matter publicly, so as not to detract from discussions about bargaining. However, the trolling has resumed late this week, on both our Facebook and Twitter pages. It now seems even clearer that our initial suspicions were right, and we feel we now have no choice but to let our members know. The troll accounts that are targeting our social-media pages are linked to a member of OHSU’s bargaining team.
On Monday, July 22, a Twitter account using the name “Aanus McFadden” started interacting with our account by asking a few questions. After some back and forth, Jesse Miller, who manages our Twitter page, recognized that “McFadden” was exhibiting some classic troll behavior. Jesse muted the account after directing them to better resources and thought that would be the end of it. As he usually does when he suspects a troll, Jesse glanced at their profile. The account’s activity on Twitter was also suspiciously troll-like. Jesse joked about “McFadden” with friends and coworkers, which prompted one of them to ask him to look a little more closely at the account. “McFadden” had only one follower — an account with the even more childish name of “Roy Vragina.” The “Roy” account also appeared suspicious and it also had only one follower: an account called “Frengle,” which used a profile photo of Patrick Frengle, who is a member of OHSU’s bargaining team.
The two accounts that are linked to Mr. Frengle were both created in October 2012 and interacted with each other in 2012. All three accounts — Frengle and the two trolls — follow journalist Nate Silver, house editor for The Cook Political Report Dave Wasserman, and comedian Sarah Silverman. All three have interacted with our union. The accounts’ low post counts, the fact that two of the three were created at the same time, the fact that they talked about the same topics at the same time (but have said little to nothing since) and the fact that that they followed the same three seemingly random people all point to the accounts being connected to the same person: Mr. Frengle.
It’s possible that this is all random, but how many coincidences does it take to conclude that there’s a pattern? There are more 200 million accounts on Twitter. What are the odds that there would be this many connections by random happenstance? If the accounts aren’t run by the same person, they’re almost certainly run by people who know each other outside of Twitter. If Patrick Frengle isn’t “Aanus McFadden” or “Roy Vragina,” they’re friends or associates of his. As we noted above, when we were first trolled by these accounts, we chose not to follow up on it with OHSU or to go public. Our bargaining team, staff and members like Jesse had enough on our plates, and we hoped the trolls would get bored. And they did, until Thursday, August 1, when we launched our meme contest on the Local Facebook page.
On August 1, these same two trolls shared memes on our Facebook page that misrepresented our union’s position on certain economic issues still on the table. Both of their Facebook profiles have strict privacy settings, but one of the few comments visible on the “McFadden” profile is from a woman whose hyphenated last name begins with Frengle. “McFadden” tweeted about our union frequently over the weekend, continuing to misrepresent Local 328’s bargaining positions. On Friday, August 2, they began following the Twitter accounts of members of our bargaining team and other Local 328 members. Over the course of the weekend, all three accounts have changed their user names and Twitter handles and made changes to their followers. The “McFadden” account has also shared a spreadsheet that misrepresents the costs of our union dues. (Did we mention that Mr. Frengle works in OHSU’s budget & financial planning department? He’s the person who prepared the spreadsheet that OHSU’s bargaining team presented when they rejected all of our economic proposals on May 19.) If we had any doubt in July that these trolls are connected to Mr. Frengle, we have no doubt now.
We know that both parties in these negotiations hope to persuade folks of the “rightness” of our positions and offers, and our communications will reflect that. However, many of our members (and non-AFSCME-represented employees!) have told us that they’ve found much of OHSU’s communications and messaging around bargaining to be manipulative and disrespectful. We’ve tried our best to take the high road about this, only responding to OHSU’s communications on two occasions when we felt that the spin had crossed a line into misinformation. We’ve also made two corrections on our blog, when an error or misunderstanding was pointed out to us by OHSU.
We maintain open commenting on our blog so that our members can share their thoughts about bargaining, even if they don’t agree with a position our union has taken, and we’ve held multiple forums where members can freely ask questions. In contrast, OHSU has taken away our members’ voices during negotiations — deleting critical comments on OHSU Now, banning some members outright and contacting employees’ managers. OHSU has used misplaced concerns about “direct dealing” during negotiations to keep comments closed on its bargaining-related posts. Then, when frustrated members ask questions on other posts, their comments are deleted for being off-topic.
Throughout our union’s negotiations with OHSU, our members have expressed frustration about not being listened to by management and feeling disrespected by OHSU. Our bargaining team has felt the same way. We’ve been bargaining in good faith and have been respectful to OHSU at the table, but we haven’t felt that same respect in return — we’ve faced questions that indicated OHSU’s team literally hadn’t listened to information we presented, unfamiliarity with the contract being negotiated and an employer that didn’t respect the bargaining process enough to have the actual decision-makers at the table (or even available) during late-stage mediation.
Our union isn’t silencing people. Members of our bargaining team aren’t hiding behind fake names to troll OHSU on social media or share misinformation about OHSU’s positions. We haven’t played games, like floating outlandish proposals just to say later that we’ve made movement or backtracking from previous positions. We’re here trying to negotiate a fair contract with OHSU for our bargaining unit. We want to work with management to help make OHSU the best place it can be, for employees and patients alike. We want OHSU to see that our members are assets to the organization.
What have we gotten for our efforts? Trolls linked to OHSU’s bargaining team sharing misinformation on our social-media pages and wasting the time of the member volunteers who have to clean up after them or write articles explaining to our members what’s going on. We have screenshots of the posts, tweets and social-media connections mentioned above, and on Monday, August 5, we reached out to Dan Forbes, OHSU’s vice president of Human Resources to share our concerns about Mr. Frengle. (During this very phone call, the Twitter profile of another questionable user who had been interacting with “McFadden” about our union went dark.)
We questioned whether we should go public about this matter (we don’t want to fan the flames when tensions are already high), but ultimately felt we had no choice. What do you think would happen to an AFSCME-represented employee who was behaving this way toward OHSU? This behavior is unacceptable, especially from those who are perceived as leaders at OHSU, and our members need to know what type of people have been at the table with us.
OHSU’s final-offer post on OHSU Now states that OHSU and AFSCME Local 328 have a long-standing and cooperative relationship. We hope OHSU finally shows that it actually does value this relationship, by investigating this matter and dealing with it appropriately and promptly.