Some of you may remember the independent investigation that was to happen in the Environmental Services Department (EVS). If not, here’s some background. Back in November 2015, AFSCME began an employee-abuse awareness campaign. For far too long, employees went to OHSU Human Resources, OHSU’s Affirmative Action office, OHSU’s Integrity office and even our union without seeing real change. Our union’s campaign was quickly noticed by HR, OHSU’s legal team and management. We were asked to meet with OHSU representatives and attempt to solve some of the problems the EVS employees were facing.
Local 328 pushed for an independent investigation of the situation and OHSU agreed. Both parties interviewed investigators and Cathryn Dammel was selected to investigate the EVS situation. Since Ms. Dammel was unfamiliar to our members, we wanted a few minutes with each employee to reassure them that they should be very open and honest with her; OHSU agreed.
I do not believe that OHSU thought too much about how it was going to schedule more than 30 hour-long interviews. The EVS employees are not a group of folks that you can simply send an Outlook appointment to—many of them do not use computers. In addition, English is not the first language for the majority of the employees who would be interviewed. Many of them work on the second and third shifts. OHSU gave Local 328 less than 24 hours’ notice of the interview schedules for the employees. We reached out to our stewards for help — even on such short notice, Local 328 steward and board member Bernie Delaney offered to meet almost every employee prior to his/her meeting with the investigator.
The interviews started on March 29—one employee was interviewed that day. On the second day of interviews, only half of the scheduled employees showed up — the others did not because they were not working that day or were unaware that they had been scheduled for an interview. On March 31, OHSU realized that it could not get our members to the interviews without our help. Local 328 steward and board member Debbie Brock Talarsky and staff representative Ross Grami went to work — they spent all of the following day reaching out to the affected members to ensure that the following week of interviews was set. Debbie and another union steward, Johanna Colgrove, escorted almost all of the rest of our folks to their interviews.
This process could not have happened without the dedication of our stewards, Ross and — especially — all of the EVS employees who found the courage to speak up once again about the abuse, this time in hopes that OHSU listens.