Category Archives: Know Your Union

Unit Steward Program Is One Year Old!

This month marks the one-year anniversary of Local 328’s unit-steward program.

Our goal upon starting our union’s unit-steward program was to have at least one steward in every work unit. We have been building the program over the past year and, while we haven’t quite met our goal, we’ve made great progress! OHSU has close to 500 work units — our union is up to the challenge of ensuring that each one of them has a steward.

Unit stewards serve as information specialists for our membership and a resource hub for the work units. We train our unit stewards on how to establish good two-way communication between members and our union’s leadership. Unit stewards are also trained on how to direct members to resources that Local 328 provides, including how to connect with stewards who can assist members during investigations and grievances. Unit stewards also act as the face of our union, greeting each new member to the work unit.

If your work unit doesn’t have a unit steward, we strongly encourage you and your coworkers to select someone so that you have good, up-to-date information about the fun and important things that are happening in our union.

If you are interested in becoming a unit steward or would just like more information on the program, please email Local 328 staff representative Kate Baker at kbaker@oregonafscme.org.

Summer Celebration — AFSCME Strong BBQ

 

It’s been a whirlwind year for Local 328.  Join us at the Mac Hall Fountain on Wednesday, July 13, from 11:30 a.m. – 1:30 p.m. to celebrate with a BBQ lunch. (Food is guaranteed for the first 500 attendees, so don’t wait till the last minute to arrive.)

So, what are we celebrating?

Last summer, our union made a commitment to fight off anti-worker, anti-union efforts in the courts and on the ballot, nationally and at home here in Oregon. The cornerstone of that effort is our AFSCME Strong campaign. The point of the campaign is to solidify our membership so that we maintain a strong union despite the attempts of corporate-sponsored groups to attack our right to collect dues and fair-share fees.

With the assistance of AFSCME International, in January we had a successful weekend blitz where we visited fair-share fee payers and converted more than 250 of them to dues payers.

We embarked on an organizing campaign to create and grow a unit-steward program that would assist us with workplace organizing and help convert existing dues payers to maintenance-of-membership dues payers. To date we have trained and deployed more than 100 unit stewards and are proud to say that in this group of people are some of the smartest, most engaged people we have ever worked with. As they grow with our union, many of them will inevitably move into leadership positions.

Our union is in good hands, now and in the future.

Challenges met.

Our members successfully organized around the plight of Environmental Services (EVS) workers at OHSU. Over the course of last winter and into this spring, were able to work with OHSU to achieve significant changes in the EVS department that will benefit the employees for years to come.

With the untimely death of Justice Antonin Scalia, the U.S. Supreme Court deadlocked over the Friedrichs case and let stand a lower court’s decision that affirmed the right of unions to collect fair-share fees. Similar cases are in the pipeline and, inevitably, some of them will make their way to the court after Scalia’s successor is confirmed. The people behind these cases have deep pockets and have been attacking unions for decades. They aren’t quitting any time soon, but the temporary reprieve was welcome and allowed us to focus on preparing for the ballot-measure fight to come.

We were aware of two anti-union measures being circulated that would have had even more devastating effects on public-employee unions than the Supreme Court case. One was being circulated by groups funded by the timber industry and the other by Loren Parks from Nevada. We have been fighting measures like these for years and have developed expertise in fighting them in the courts and through election turnout. This year, the Oregon Supreme Court sided with labor and agreed with the ballot titles assigned by the Secretary of State. These titles did not poll favorably for the measures and one of them was withdrawn. The other is still technically “out there,” but there is no active signature-gathering taking place.

Going back to the days of Bill Sizemore, Oregon has not had an election cycle without an anti-union measure on the ballot. This year may be an exception, but next year and the year after that will not be.

Our future is bright.

We have a lot to celebrate.

  • We have made huge progress toward securing our union’s future against anti-worker attacks that will no doubt continue to challenge us.
  • We have engaged 100 new activists.
  • We have a plan to fight off anti-union attacks and are executing it successfully.

Thank you for being a part of it. Come and celebrate our union with us!

Better Know a Board Member: President Matt Hilton

Our union’s communications committee is launching a new series of profiles of all of our board members. Our goal is to interview them about OHSU, our union and their life in an effort to help our members get to know our leaders a bit better. First up for this task, Matt Hilton.

Matt works in ITG as a call-center representative. Prior to becoming president of Local 328, he held positions on our union’s political-action committee and executive board. Matt lives in SW Portland with his wife Jamie.

What made you want to work at OHSU?
My strong desire for food and housing.

What is the best part of your job?
I speak with a variety of people every day, and there’s always something new popping up. This is also the least stressful job I’ve ever worked.

What is something you want to change about OHSU?
Every contract shouldn’t be viewed as an opportunity for take-backs. That and some sort of profit-sharing system should be introduced. If we can give bonuses to management, what’s good for the goose, is good for the gander.

How did you get involved in the union?
A coworker encouraged me to become a steward right after my probationary period was up.

What has been your most powerful experience within our union? Leading a rally/press conference/ city-hall sit-in in Detroit, protesting Governor Rick Snyder, for a national AFSCME Next Wave conference was a great experience. I’m also very proud of the settlement we got last contract.

What does a successful next contract look like to you?
Something that’s going to put more money in people’s pockets. Something that will help offset the insane rise in the cost of living here.

Favorite place to grab a bite in Portland?
2:00 a.m. food-cart food can’t be beat.

Favorite beer/drink?
Dark liquor and rocks, or good old fashioned PBR.

Favorite place to hike, swim or generally have fun in Portland?
The Portland rose garden in Washington Park is a gem, and also where I asked my wife to marry me.

If you could eat dinner with one historical figure, who would it be and why?
Hunter S. Thompson, because the conversation wouldn’t be dull.

Most embarrassing fact about yourself that you are willing to share?
During the 2012 AFSCME International convention in Los Angeles, I was passionately trying to convince a homeless man to vote for AFSCME presidential candidate Danny Donahue — until he asked if he could by some meth from me. Then I realized he wasn’t a convention delegate, and that I’d probably imbibed too much at a Next Wave event earlier that evening.

Stewards Needed By Local 328

Local 328 Needs Stewards

Local 328 has three types of stewards – Unit Stewards, Investigatory Stewards and Grievance Stewards.

We are trying to build our Unit Steward program and our goal is to have at least one steward in every work unit. Unit Stewards are membership information  specialists and a resource hub for the work unit. We train unit stewards how to establish good two way communication among members and with our union’s leadership. Unit Stewards are trained in how to direct members to resources that our Union provides, including how to connect with stewards who can help them during investigations and grievances. Unit Stewards receive eight hours of paid training.

Investigatory Stewards, as the name implies, represent employees who are being questioned in interviews which could lead to discipline. Investigatory stewards provide support, educate members about the investigatory process, takes notes to make a record of the interview and may ask clarifying questions to assist in the fact finding process. They do not argue or present cases at these meetings. Investigatory stewards receive four hours of paid training.

Grievance Stewards usually begin as either Investigatory Stewards or Unit Stewards. Grievance Stewards file grievances, argue cases at Step 1 grievance meetings, and use contract interpretation skills to file grievances on subjects other than discipline. Grievance Stewards work closely with and are mentored by Lead Stewards and Union Staff Representatives. Grievance Stewards receive eight hours of paid training in addition to the the training they received as unit stewards and/or investigatory stewards.

Stewards are required to attend one quarterly training meeting and are contractually guaranteed paid release time to attend meetings and perform steward duties.

Our Union has grave need of all three types of stewards right now, but especially Investigatory and Grievance Stewards. Please contact Chief Steward Michael Stewart at chief-steward@local328.org if you are interested in becoming a steward or if you would like to talk more with Michael or a staff person about what it involved in being a Local 328 steward.

Get Nominated – National Convention Delegates Needed

Nominations Open For AFSCME Convention Delegates

Local 328 members will soon receive an election notice at home about the nomination and election of delegates to the national AFSCME convention. Our national constitution requires the local to send a notice of election to all members at their home address.

But this notice is more than a formality. It’s an opportunity to influence the direction and priorities of both Local 328 and our parent organization Oregon AFSCME Council 75 as well as the national union.

Attending convention as a delegate is a great opportunity to learn about our union, help make important decisions about our union’s future while being mentored by experienced member leaders.

If you are interested in getting involved in our Union, being nominated and elected as a delegate is a great introduction to active unionism. We encourage new leaders to step up and get involved. To nominate someone, follow the instructions on the card you receive in the mail. We will have additional emails and blog articles as the opening date for nominations moves closer.

“Walkout Looms For OHSU, Labor Union”

“Walkout Looms For OHSU, Labor Union”

So read the Sept. 19, 1995, headline of The Oregonian.

The article continued: “Tensions are building at Oregon Health Sciences University as nearly half of its workforce prepares to go on strike Thursday over wages.

“For me, this is everybody’s loss, but I’ve got to follow my union,” said Genaro Pesis, a University Hospital phlebotomist whose job it is to draw blood.”

The last AFSCME strike at OHSU was 20 years ago last month. Fewer than 500 members of the bargaining unit who were here during that strike are still working at OHSU. More than 5,000 members of our union have no memory of it.

At the time of the strike, OHSU had just become a public corporation and was facing its first big test as an independent entity. AFSCME negotiations had dragged on all spring and summer. Both sides had submitted their proposals to an independent fact finder. Local 328 embraced the fact finder’s report and OHSU rejected it. The lines were drawn.

The formerly state employees at OHSU had just had four years without a pay increase due to a state budget crisis and economic downturn. As many as 50 AFSCME job classifications were paid well below the market. After four years without offering an increase, in 1995 OHSU offered 2.5% across the board and additional salary increases for 20 of the 50 underpaid classifications.

It wasn’t enough.

Philip Curtis was chair of AFSCME 1995 bargaining team: “…We hadn’t experienced a strike in that local before; we weren’t prepared for a strike and didn’t have the first clue about what we should be doing…. The strike was surprising because the bargaining team thought we had communicated that we thought we had the best deal we could…we had a [low] turnout and a lot of people within a particular group were very disappointed; they voted to strike and most other members didn’t vote at all.”

Elisa Davidson recalled: “…Everywhere I went, I was trying to remind people not to forget to vote and everybody said ‘Vote? What vote?’ I had visions of 100 people showing up to vote and determining the fate of the workforce.”

Elisa’s fears were well founded, as it turned out. Not many members voted, but those who did were highly motivated. It wasn’t long before many employees woke up to the surprising news that they would be going on strike.

Elisa further recalled: “I voted to strike — I had been telling my husband, we had been putting food aside, paying several months of bills in advance, paid off the credit cards…we had known since June at the latest that things weren’t going well.”

 

On Sept. 20, 1995, The Oregonian reported that following 13 hours of negotiations that ended in stalemate, OHSU had started to “cancel elective surgeries and divert emergency patients to other hospitals. “

According to the newspaper, “the University upped its offer to a 3 percent across the board raise retroactive to August 1 — from its previous 2.5 percent offer.”

“The Federation offered its own prescription: a 4 percent raise in two steps — a 2.75 percent increase on Oct. 1, followed by 1.25 percent increase on April 1, 1996.”

Lois Davis, a university spokesperson, was “disappointed.”

Meanwhile, OHSU was taking steps in its contingency plan — diverting ambulances and canceling elective surgeries, which was expected to reduce bed occupancy to 50 percent of normal. It was also frantically making arrangements with other hospitals to transfer patients if necessary.

AFSCME Local 328 walked out at 12:01 a.m. on Thursday, Sept. 21, 1995.

Philip Curtis: “We worked on picking a strike date, trying to communicate the best we could to get people to walk out. I’m not even sure we had email at that time, so we were leaving messages on the union hotline, word of mouth, trying to get people to commit. The strike wasn’t what we wanted, but there was a vote and no backing out now.”

Elisa Davidson: “From inside the hospital I could hear the cheers, over and over, more and more cheering as more people joined the picket line.”

“We had people lining the parking lot across from the emergency room, we had people on the street…a bunch of people carrying pickets; it was just everybody gathered together in a long line around the property, mostly around South Hospital.”

“…We lined both corners of 45th and Vermont [at Gabriel Park] with picketers every day. A couple of doctors would come out and bring us coffee, buy us donuts — they were supportive of our strike. I took my darling two year old with me and she thought it was a blast to jump and shout and wave at everybody going by.”

Bev Swanson recalled the start of the strike: “The first thing that comes to my mind was standing out on the turnaround at, I think it was midnight that we went on strike, and watch[ing] for people that actually came out and that was the exciting part; that when we saw the RTs and CNAs that were working at night, when they started coming out the door, there were nurses that were there for support. You always worry that if you throw a party that no one will come; well, they came.”

Next in this series: “University Officials Resume Talks”

Grievances

With­­ bargaining over and a four-year contract in place, it’s a good time to start having some discussions about topics of general interest to union members. Today’s article is inspired by a conversation I had with a member last week. As always, questions and comments are welcome.

What Is a Grievance?

There are lots of reasons why you might contact Local 328. I often hear members refer to any complaint or problem with which the union is involved as a “grievance.” That’s not accurate, however — a grievance is a specific kind of complaint.

A grievance is formal notice served on the employer that the contract has been violated. A grievance is usually filed on an official grievance form and transmitted by the union steward to the employer by email or, occasionally, in person. A grievance must contain three things:

  • A specific citation of an article in the union contract that has been violated.
  • A description of the violation/a statement of facts.
  • A request for remedy -– what will it take to fix the problem?

Let’s say you believe you were not asked to work some overtime you were entitled to and instead the overtime was given to a less senior employee. What would a grievance form include in this case?

  • Your basic contact/identifying information, your department, your position and your supervisor’s contact information.
  • A citation of “Article 9.1.4” of the collective-bargaining agreement
  • A short statement of facts: “Last week, on July 27, I was on duty and available for overtime work. I was not informed overtime was available, nor was I offered overtime work. The supervisor did offer four hours of overtime to Sam Smith, who, based on seniority, should not have been offered it before I was.
  • A request for remedy: “I should be paid four hours at time-and-one- half.”

Grievances can only ask for, and be awarded, remedies that make an employee whole for what s/he would have received had the contract been followed. There are no punitive damages; there are no apologies required.

Grievances MUST be filed on time. You have 21 days from the time you knew or should have known that the contract was violated to file. If you file late, you lose out — no do-overs.

Leaving a message on the union’s phone line or entering your case online DOES NOT count as having filed a grievance. The grievance is not filed until it is transmitted to the employer, so you must leave enough time for people to do their work. Leaving your message on day 20 or 21 is not a good strategy.

How Do You File a Grievance?

First, contact the steward program. You can do this by calling (503) 239-9858 ext. 132 and leaving a message or by going to the eZone, logging in, going to the Member menu, clicking on Get Union Assistance and following the prompts.

A steward will contact you to start the process.  Just because you have entered a case in the eZone doesn’t mean a grievance has been filed. Filing is the next step in the process. That’s why it’s important to contact the union again if a steward hasn’t contacted you within a day or two. Once a steward gets in touch with you, s/he will walk you through the rest of the process.

There are lots of reasons, other than grievances, why you might contact the union. We will discuss some of them in future articles.