On Monday, June 20th, EVS employees at OHSU received a joint communication from AFSCME and OHSU advising that the independent investigator appointed to look into issues of employee abuse at the OHSU Environmental Services department had completed her work and issued a report.
The report was a comprehensive review of the charges made by AFSCME Local 328 regarding the working conditions of EVS employees, based on in depth interviews with approximately 30 EVS workers.
This independent investigation is unprecedented for OHSU and Local 328 and is a direct result of our members standing up for themselves with on the job actions, their willingness to share their stories publically on social media and in person and their willingness to support each other.
When our Union began this process we had three demands:
- An independent investigation
- An effective labor management process where workers can be heard and have their issues addressed
- A reform of the internal complaint process when workers are victimized by managers or coworkers.
The independent investigation has been completed and a report issued.
The report outlines findings in nine areas where the investigator found evidence to support our union’s claims:
- Cultural insensitivity and bias in the workplace
- Disrespectful behavior down, up and across the workgroup
- Perceived favoritism
- Roles, duties and expectations not clear or standardized
- Lack of accountability
- Operational practices cause lost productivity and waste
- Staffing issues
- Perceived inconsistent application or disregard of rules
- Not enough transparency and communication
Each finding was accompanied by a list of recommendations. OHSU and AFSCME Local 328 have scheduled a series of meetings to review and plan to implement the recommendations. As we implement recommendations we will report to our members on our progress.
The labor/management committee (LMC) is active in Environmental Services.
A facilitator has been hired and the teams for labor and management have been selected. The goal of labor/management meetings are to raise and resolve issues other than contract violations or interpersonal problems – in other words, to look at workplace problems that often get overlooked because communication between workers and management has broken down. Initial meetings of the labor management committee have been effective. The two teams have already brainstormed a list of potential issues and plan to prioritize them at their next meeting. Additionally EVS management will begin introducing LMC representatives at EVS huddles.
The reform of the internal complaint process has not been resolved at this time.
The investigator made some recommendations about the way complaints should be reported but did not make recommendations about changing the complaint process itself. This is an area where we will need to have ongoing discussions before we can report that it has been resolved.
So what does it all mean; what have we learned?
We learned that an active membership raising public awareness of a problem can be a spur to action. We learned that OHSU will respond when presented with compelling evidence. We learned that the best way to get OHSU to respond is for workers to stand together and take the risk of telling their stories about how they are affected by their working conditions.
We’ve learned that OHSU is willing and able to take corrective action AND work in collaboration with the union to make changes when called upon, including personnel changes, when necessary.
We’ve learned that workers really are stronger together.
We want to thank our stewards and leaders, especially Chief Steward Michael Stewart and President Matt Hilton, the members who put their names out publically on social media to tell their stories, the EVS workers who had the courage to meet with the investigator, our members from all over campus who wrote messages of support, wore buttons and attended our vigils, the EVS workers who broke tradition and began speaking out in the morning huddles, the members who were inspired during this time to step up and become unit stewards to help their coworkers, the nurses who wore buttons and supported our EVS workers and everyone else who was touched by the stories of our workers and who didn’t turn a blind eye.