Who Do You Want to Make the Decisions re: OHSU’s Benefits?

Note: Since this article was originally posted, OHSU has countered our proposal to go back to a more collaborative EBC with a counterproposal that’s worse than current contract language. On April 16, OHSU proposed stripping the EBC of its decision-making ability entirely — the EBC would only make “recommendations” and OHSU’s HR vice president would be the one who has all the power over your health-insurance options.

Local 328 was disappointed by OHSU’s March 21 characterization of our union’s proposal to eliminate the tie-breaker from the Employee Benefits Council voting process. The EBC was designed to work by consensus, and functioned well for about 17 years before the tie-breaking language was added to the contract. Our proposal isn’t anything radical, merely a return to the language that served OHSU employees well for many years.

OHSU stated in its email that it is considering the possible “ramifications” of returning to language that allowed for fair decision-making by representatives from management, AFSCME and ONA. Our union is more concerned about the demonstrated actual harm we feel has been done to our members by putting all of the power over your health-insurance options into the hands of a single person. (A person whose annual base salary is more than $1 million, no less.)

In 2018, the EBC was in the final stages of changing our third-party administrator from Moda to Aetna. Then-President Robertson overruled the EBC and we were left with Moda. Dr. Robertson also cast a tie-breaking vote resulting in OHSU deciding to offer a high-deductible insurance plan. (Local 328 doesn’t generally recommend this type of plan, because of concerns for employees who may not have the ability to fully pay the deductible in an emergency.)

Last year OHSU also floated the idea of imposing a spousal surcharge on employees paying for health insurance for a spouse who could obtain coverage through his/her own job. Our union believed this should be decided during bargaining, but OHSU felt it should be decided at the EBC. So, we took the case to arbitration — and won. OHSU might still propose this during our current negotiations, but how do you think it would have been decided at the EBC? Under the current contract language, it would likely have ended up in a tie and ultimately been imposed on employees after a tie-breaking vote by Dr. Jacobs.

The language Local 328 has proposed will return the EBC to a labor/management cooperation model that has been remarkably effective until recently, one where all voices have a say. Shouldn’t we all want that?

For the record, here is the change our union proposed (a modification to Section 3 of Appendix C of our contract): “Every reasonable attempt will be made to make consensus-based decisions utilizing evaluative criteria developed by the Council. If consensus fails, the matter(s) will be voted by the parties collectively (e.g., ONA one (1) vote, AFSCME two (2) votes, and the Employer three (3) votes). If the Council is still unable to reach a decision, the matter(s) in dispute shall be referred to the OHSU President or his/her designee, whose decision shall be final and binding on the Council, the Employer, the Union and the ONA.  Two (2) Union, one (1) ONA and three (3) Employer Council members shall constitute a quorum.”

You can read more about our concerns about the current EBC process here.

2 thoughts on “Who Do You Want to Make the Decisions re: OHSU’s Benefits?”

  1. If any one person should be making a tie-breaking decision, it should be someone from the lowest end of the pay scale, say, an EVS worker, and NOT someone who in reality never will ever have to weigh groceries or a car payment against medical care costs.

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