Why We Do This

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I sit here, tasked to write three or four paragraphs to activate you, to get you thinking that maybe, just maybe, we can win this thing if we all do it together. The thing is, many people — and forgive me if you aren’t one of them — don’t seem to know how a union works or even, frankly, what a union is.

For three or four years, things tick along pretty well. Folks get their raises, union stewards or staff show up when someone is in trouble or to help work out other problems in the workplace. When things go south, we call your bosses for you, talk to Human Resources for you, give you advice, answer your questions, intervene when coworkers can’t get along, write the newsletters, train the stewards, run the elections that practically no one votes in — all the things your dues money goes to provide.

So what’s the problem? Members pay dues, staff and activists provide services — that’s the deal, right? No — just no.

Think about why any of this works. Where does a union’s power come from? Does it come from hiring a hard-nosed lawyer to bargain our contracts? Does it come from making outlandish bargaining proposals so that when management meets us half way, we’ve got a great deal? Does a union get its power because employers just want to get along with employees and not be embarrassed in the newspapers?  Does a union get its power from a bargaining team just saying “no” until management gets bored and caves in? You don’t believe that — not at all.

Unions get their power from their members acting together.

Unions get their power, ultimately, from their members being willing to withhold their labor rather than take a bad deal.

And make no mistake, this is about power. History, facts, argument and goodwill can only take you so far. At the end of the day — like they say in sports — it’s all about who wants it more.

We all want a good contract. If we could get a good contract by the bargaining team sitting at the table steely eyed and saying “no” until the cows came home, we’d get a good contract. It doesn’t work that way — you know it doesn’t.

Here is what I love about working for the union: I never know where courage and leadership is going to come from. It is found in the most unlikely places. The poorest workers will take the biggest risk. The single mom will become a tiger looking after her family’s interests, pharmacists will band together to look out for each other, members who understand unions and collective action will be mentors for those who are less familiar. Folks will bring forth talents that I, and sometimes they, didn’t know they had.

Start small — make yourself heard. We can do this.

Thank you.

7 thoughts on “Why We Do This”

  1. this is good, because as I read the article about pharmacy I had no idea that you could do that. There is so much to learn. Also, had no idea that I needed to sign a card to vote. One more thing, a coworker of mine said she had signed a card when she started and never has been asked to vote on anything. Maybe the card signing could be done on campus? Just a suggestion as i dont think many know they have to sign one

    1. Lisa, sometimes when people change jobs at OHSU, some kind of glitch causes them to flip from member to fair-share payer. Your coworker is welcome to email me–I can check that we have her listed as a member in our database. Members receive info about voting and other important union news via email (and it’s posted online) unless they’ve opted out of our newsletters.

      1. I am a member and do not receive information about voting. please check to see if I am a member in you database also. thank you.

    2. Have her contact us. Sometimes there is a disconnect between the electronic membership file and the paper file. But we keep all cards on file and if we have her card we will update the electronic file.

  2. There comes a time when you have to say ‘I’m in.’ If we don’t stand up to OHSU now, they will start down a road that will change what we are. I’m scared, but I’m in.

  3. We ALL need to stand up! Show up to bargaining, create a petition from your own department, wear green, get your colleagues involved, do whatever you can to prevent these take backs and show your strength!

  4. I am in. 100%

    Have conversations with your coworkers about bargaining and support your AFSCME brothers and sisters. Wear green, put on a bargaining sticker, sign your Union card, make a sign showing your support and post a picture of it to the FB page, create a petition and let your voice be heard, or come up with something new.

    Me and my coworkers have joined the effort. Let’s show them that we care.

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