Category Archives: Know Your Union

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

Why We Do Politics

by Michael Stewart, Local 328 Vice President

One of the most common concerns I hear as a Local 328 member leader is “I don’t like that our union is involved in politics!” or “I don’t like that our union endorsed a particular candidate.” As much as we would like to avoid politics and the difficulties and polarization that come with it, the truth is that politics is a vital part of what our union does. Not because we choose it to be, but for simple survival and to meet the needs of our members. Examples of how politics on all levels directly affects working families (whether union or non-union) are numerous.

Since the elections of 2010, we have witnessed the targeting of public-employee unions by then newly elected governors and legislatures across the country. Wisconsin and Iowa stand as stark examples of what is at stake for the working class when we fail to directly take on the political threats to our wages, benefits and right to collectively bargain. Anti-worker legislators and governors swept into office in both states. As soon as they were sworn in, they jammed through, often without so much as a public hearing, bills that eliminated fair-share fees, forced yearly recertification of unions, barred automatic dues payments and severely limited or eliminated collective contract bargaining. How has this affected the working families in these areas?

In an article for The Atlantic about the effects of Act 10 in Wisconsin, Alana Semuels discusses how the reduction in union power has affected the middle class. For example, one married couple (both teachers) saw their combined wages decrease by 11%. Overall, teachers have seen an 8% decrease in total compensation. Some teachers have had to take second jobs or leave the field all together. This worsened an already growing teacher shortage in the state. Public employees across the state have suffered similarly. A restriction on the right to collectively bargain wage increases so that they only match the rate of inflation has reduced the upward pressure on wages in the private sector, leading to a flattening of wages and an increase of income inequality within the state.

Oregon AFSCME has a robust and active political department consisting of paid staff and volunteer member leaders, with a very successful PEOPLE program that helps fund our work. As such, we have been mostly successful in helping elect pro-worker legislators and defeating anti-worker candidates and initiatives. I say “mostly” because, despite our union’s best efforts, we have seen the ugly face of anti-worker politics within our own state. In Lane County, where many employees’ wages were as much as 25% below market, management demanded that employees pay more for health insurance and retirement benefits; couple with anemic wage increases, this would have amounted to a decrease in employees’ take-home pay. These unfair demands were not due to a lack of money on the part of the county, but to the political philosophy of a few of the commissioners, one of whom is a Scott Walker protégé. Yamhill County narrowly escaped striking over many of the same demands and conditions of the Lane County strike.

With so much of the well-being of our members and our members’ families riding on the policies and legislation of our governor, legislators, county commissioners and other elected officials, it would be negligent for AFSCME not to be involved in determining who will write policies and legislation as well as helping shape the content of these policies. In my next article I will detail the process used by our union when we endorse a pro-worker candidate, how our fellow members educate elected officials about the work we do and how their legislation impacts that work and how we stay effective despite opposition.

 

Local 328 Committed To More Diverse Leadership

by Micheal Stewart, Local 328 Vice President.

Dear Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME Local 328,

Last month I was sworn in as the new vice president of our union. I have been active with both Local 328 and Oregon AFSCME for eight years in several different offices and roles. My goal as a member leader has always been to serve the interests of union members and working families. I consider it a privilege to now serve as your vice president.

Our union is fortunate to have highly skilled, hard-working member leaders who serve on the executive committee and executive board and in the steward program. However, we are lacking a very important element that is vital to any organization that wants to fully and honestly represent its members: diversity. Local 328 has the most diverse membership within Oregon AFSCME in terms of race, ethnicity, age, income level and immigration status — we must strive to develop leadership that is similarly diverse in order to provide a voice for all the members our union represents. The strength that comes from diversity is moral as well as practical.

The moral strength comes from having leaders who share experiences with all of the members who will be affected by our union’s decisions. This is done by making sure members from traditionally marginalized communities are empowered and are given a voice to express their questions, concerns, and satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—with both our union and OHSU.

The practical strength comes from being better able to tackle complex problems from several different points of view, backgrounds, skill sets and experiences. It also helps to avoid groupthink and balance biases that are present whenever a group of people works together to achieve a goal. An article in Understanding Science describes it this way: “[S]cience relies on a diverse community, whose personal views run the gamut: liberal to conservative, tree-hugging to business-friendly … Scientists strive to be impartial and objective … but in those occasional cases in which personal biases sneak in, they are kept in check by a diverse scientific community.” The power that diversity can bring to an organization is very often underestimated or overlooked.

The union movement hasn’t always recognized the value of a diverse membership. This fact was not lost on employers, some of whom have exploited racial, ethnic, and other tensions to pit working people against each other. Because of these past difficulties, it is important that current leaders not merely ask people to step forward but that we actively recruit and invest in an effort to improve diversity. Both unions and employers now recognize that the ethnicity, race, sex, faith, physical abilities, and sexual orientation of workers can be the bond that reaches beyond differences in job classification, wages and education. This bond of shared experience is an asset to any organization that is open, welcoming and willing to learn. AFSCME Local 328 must be such an organization.

Our union is committed to providing the moral and practical strength of diverse member leadership. We are not yet where we should be in order to fulfill this commitment. We are currently developing a plan to reach out to underrepresented members of our union to recruit folks to leadership positions within our union — this will be my top priority as vice president. I ask for your help in fulfilling this commitment. If you or a coworker are interested in or have questions about joining the steward program, executive board or some other form of service to our union, please call (503) 329-9084 or email me at vice-president@local328. With your help, we can make Local 328 an even stronger voice for our members and working families everywhere.

In solidarity,

Michael Stewart, Vice President, AFSCME Local 328

Oregon AFSCME Leadership Conference

Local 328 would like to send as large a delegation as we can muster to Council 75’s annual leadership conference. This is a great opportunity for our stewards and union officials and an even greater opportunity if you are not a current leader or activist or if you are new to our union.

You will learn about our union, what makes us stronger together, how we can be better and how you can help.

If you want to attend, or if you want more infomation use this form.

Learn more about the leadershio conference here.

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”