If you still have questions after reading the following FAQ, ask them in the comments section below, so that everyone may see the answers. The Local 328 bargaining team is in mediation with OHSU on June 24 and 25 this week. Be sure to read our Preparing for a Strike article as well.
Q: Why are we voting to strike?
A: We’re not, yet. The Union must go through a legally mandated series of steps before a strike vote can be taken. You may read about those steps in a previous blog post. Right now, we are still at the mediation stage in bargaining. The only reason we would consider striking is if we could not come to agreement on the issues our members have told us they would strike over — that’s why the recent strike poll was so important. (For strategic reasons we are not making the results of that poll public at this time.) The larger question of why we would vote to strike is that, at the end of the day, unions get their power from the members’ willingness to withhold their labor — not from staff or lawyers or labor law.
Q: When will the strike vote be?
A: We’ll let our members know well in advance of a vote. At the stage of bargaining we are in now, it’s difficult to project exactly when a strike vote might occur. If we don’t come to agreement, it would be reasonable to anticipate a strike vote to happen sometime in the next two to six weeks.
Q: How long would we need to be on strike?
A: There really is no way to predict this. What we can say is that the more effective the strike is — the more employees who go out and stay out — the greater the pressure put on the employer to settle. Folks should not think that a two- or three-day strike or some symbolic gesture would move the employer once things have gotten to this point. Think weeks, not days.
Q: Why can’t we just reject OHSU’s offer and go back to bargaining?
A: Rejecting OHSU’s offer but refusing to strike would send the employer a message that they do not have to change their proposals — they could just wait out the legally mandated timelines and IMPOSE their final offer. We promise that our members won’t like their final offer.
Q: If we vote to strike, do I have to strike?
A: We consider every member of the bargaining unit — dues payers and fair-share-fee payers — morally obligated to support a strike. The whole point of a union is to act together in the interest of improving working conditions for EVERYONE. However, the union will not threaten or try to intimidate people — that’s not what we are about. However, if the bargaining unit does go on strike and you refuse to participate, don’t be surprised if/when your peers judge you for your actions that undermine the strike and threaten everyone’s chances to get a good deal and take care of their families.
Q: Will I be fired or lose my job if I strike?
A: No — striking is a legally protected activity if the strike is entered into lawfully by the union.
Q: Can I be permanently replaced?
A: Every strike ends with a return-to-work agreement in which the right of employees to their jobs is spelled out.
Q: What happens to my health-care 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-care coverage for the whole month. We would time our strike notice to be at the beginning of the month so that members would be guaranteed a month of health-care coverage while on strike.
Q: When would a strike begin?
A: It’s really too soon to say with any certainty. A fair estimate would be no sooner than August, no later than October.
Q: Can I still take my already scheduled vacation if we go on strike?
A: Probably not. OHSU would most likely declare an emergency and cancel vacations. We would grieve it, but by the time the grievance process ran its course, the strike would be over. If the employer cancels your vacation and orders you to work, you have the legal right to inform them that you are on strike and will not be returning to work until the strike is settled, but you won’t get to use your vacation time.
Q: Can trial-service employees be fired if they go on strike?
A: No — they are legally protected just as regular employees are.
Q: Can I work somewhere else during the strike?
A: Yes — in fact, this is a great strategy for weathering a strike. Even a part-time, low-wage job during this period could make a big difference for many families.
Q: Do I have to tell my boss that I am going out on strike?
A: No. S/he will figure it out when you don’t show up.
Q: What about paychecks?
A: OHSU will have to issue paychecks during the strike for money you earned prior to the strike. This is controlled by state law — earned wages may not be withheld.
Q: Who can strike?
A: Everyone in the bargaining unit can strike. Whether you are a dues-paying member or a fair-share-fee payer, you are protected.
Q: Can I be retaliated against for striking?
A: No. It is against state law for employers to retaliate against members for taking part in lawful union activities.
Q: Can we be locked out?
A: Legally, yes, but lockouts are almost unheard of in public-sector bargaining. There may have been some, but we are unaware of any.
Q: How long will we strike?
A: Until we reach an agreement with the employer. The ONA strike at OHSU lasted more than 50 days.
Q: How will we know when the strike is over?
A: The union will announce it via email and through press releases. You can be sure that if OHSU employees are striking, the news media will be covering it as well. In addition, the union will post regular updates on our blog, website and Facebook page, and we will announce a phone information line that people may call to hear recorded messages about the strike.
Q: Does the union have a strike fund or hardship fund?
A: The union has a contract-defense fund that is used for bargaining expenses, legal fees for grievance arbitrations, lost-time employees to help with organizing during bargaining and other bargaining-support costs such as printing and postage. Members pay $2.00/month of their dues into this fund — about $75.00 per member over the term of the contract. Even if we didn’t have to pay for other bargaining expenses, there clearly is not enough money in the CDF to subsidize wages.
Q: Can I work from home during a strike?
A: If you work from home for OHSU during the strike, you would be considered a strikebreaker. We consider all members of the bargaining unit morally obligated to honor the strike and would expect them to not work for OHSU as long as a strike is ongoing.
Q: Will the boss threaten me?
A: Report it if s/he does—it’s against the law and the union will file an unfair-labor-practice complaint with the state.
Q: Will I lose my seniority?
Q: What will happen if OHSU cancels my medical insurance?
A: Your insurance cannot be canceled if you work at least one day in the month.