Strike FAQ

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Below is a comprehensive strike-related FAQ that we hope is helpful to our members. If you have additional questions after reviewing this information, please ask in the comments.

Q: What happens if the Local 328 and OHSU bargaining teams can’t reach agreement by the end of our contract (June 30)? A: A better question might be “What if the teams aren’t continuing movement toward an agreement by the end of our contract?” It’s a well-established practice to temporarily extend a contract as negotiations require. Some members may recall our 2012 contract negotiations, which were extended into September. If movement isn’t being made, though, either party can declare impasse.

Q: What is a strike? A: A strike is a mass work stoppage by employees, used at times to prevent an employer from forcing economic concessions and take-backs on employees. Typically, a strike is used as a last resort, when all other options have been exhausted. For a union to go on strike, a strong majority of its membership must support the strike. A strike is usually reserved for when an employer is being especially unfair, unreasonable and unnecessary with its demands and conditions. Unions get their power from their members’ willingness to withhold their labor.

Q: What can we do to avoid a strike? A: The best way to avoid a strike is to let OHSU know that you’re paying attention and taking bargaining seriously. In addition:

  • If you haven’t yet done so, please take our current bargaining survey and make your voice heard. We’ll be using your our members’ feedback to shape our strategy during mediation.
  • Attend the upcoming joint OHSU/AFSCME town hall on Wednesday, May 22, from 12 noon to 1:00 p.m. in UHS 8B60. OHSU will have the opportunity to explain its proposals and you will have the opportunity to share how OHSU’s take-backs will impact you and your family.
  • ATTEND OUR INFORMATIONAL PICKET! On Thursday, June 13, Local 328 members and our allies and community will march on Marquam Hill from 4:00 – 5:30 p.m. and then enjoy a member-appreciation BBQ/picnic on the Mac Hall lawn. Families are welcome. Short of a strike, this picket will be one of the best tools we have to show how OHSU that its record profits shouldn’t mean record out of pockets for the employees who’ve helped OHSU become so successful.
  • Like us on Facebook and Twitter and share our posts and tweets.
  • Visit our blog on a regular basis and leave comments. We know that management reads our blog, so this is a way to make your voice heard.
  • Wear green on Tuesdays.
  • Hold work-unit events to build solidarity. (We can send you green doughnuts for unity breaks!)
  • Talk to your unit steward about Local 328 events in your area. If you don’t have a unit steward, consider becoming the unit steward for your area — email us for more information.

Q: How would Local 328 call a strike? A: Our members would be given advance notice of the date for a strike vote to take place. Over the voting period, members will vote by a private, secure ballot. There will be resources available for members who need help casting their ballots. A variety of materials will also be available to help members understand the stakes and what exactly their vote is authorizing. There are many steps to even get to this point, though. After impasse is declared, our union would have seven days to present a final offer and then there would be a 30-day cooling-off period; following that, after 10 day’s notice, a strike vote would take place.

Q: Do I have to be a dues-paying member to vote on a strike? A: Yes — decisions like this will always only be made by our dues-paying membership. If you’re a represented employee who is not currently paying dues, you may sign a union membership card and participate in the strike vote.

Q: Does Local 328 have any official policies/procedures regarding strikes? A: Going out on a strike is a very serious thing. It disrupts the lives of our members and their families, our patients, our colleagues and our communities. Local 328 policy states that in in order for a strike to be called, it has to be supported by 60% of our membership. That’s not 60% of those voting — that’s 60% of the full dues-paying membership. Why is the threshold so high? If our members can’t be bothered to vote on whether to strike, the idea our union could sustain a successful strike isn’t realistic.

Q: What happens if OHSU is still proposing take-backs at the end of bargaining but Local 328 members don’t want to strike? A: Ultimately, OHSU would be able to implement its final proposal, which will likely include PTO, cuts to vacation cash-out, health-insurance take-backs, wage increases that don’t keep up with cost of living, stricter monitoring of attendance and other language that will hurt our members financially and make OHSU a worse place to work. Our members must be willing to take direct action themselves — including by going out on strike if needed — to prevent OHSU’s bad proposals from going into effect.

Q: If Local 328 calls a strike, do I have to go out and walk the picket line? A: If our union calls a strike, it will be because thousands and thousands of AFSCME-represented OHSU employees have found OHSU’s proposals so intolerable that they were willing to walk off the job. PLEASE join them on the picket line. Having a strong picket line every day of a strike is crucial. A well-attended picket line ensures the strike continues to receive the attention it needs — from OHSU, of course, and from patients, the media and other supporters. If you can’t join us on the picket line, consider other actions in support of the strike: write letters to the editor, participate in community-service projects, call your elected officials, speak at public meetings and otherwise try to raise awareness of the strike. The public must be aware of what we’re striking for.

Q: If our union is out on strike, what happens if I cross the picket line? A: First, if you plan on crossing the picket line when our union is on strike, please vote against a strike. Recognizing that a strong majority of your peers and coworkers will be financially sacrificing to improve your wages and working conditions — do you have to strike? No, and our union does not fine strike-breakers. However, by crossing the picket line, you would be weakening the strike, hurting your coworkers who are out on the picket line and threatening everyone’s chances to get a fair contract.

Q: What will happen to the patients if I go out on strike? A: OHSU has been preparing for the possibility of a strike since early in bargaining. OHSU will have ample time to prepare for any mission-critical staffing and ensure patient safety.

Q: What’s expected of non-members during the strike? A: Nothing, but we’d love the support of non-members in any way they choose to show it.

Q: Will Local 328 help cover my wages while I’m out on strike? A: Per our union’s constitution, we are required to have a contract-defense fund, aka a strike fund. Typically these funds are used for expenses related to contract bargaining or advanced representation (e.g., for arbitrations). Practically speaking, if we wanted to provide every member $500 at the start of a strike, it would cost about $3,000,000; unfortunately, our treasury can’t sustain that sort of expense. For members who would be in financial need, we do have relationships with the Oregon Food Bank and Labor’s Community Service Agency. We also would call upon all available resources available to us from Oregon AFSCME Council 75, the Oregon AFL-CIO, AFSCME International and any other supportive organizations.

Q: What happens to my health-insurance coverage if I go out on strike? A: OHSU is pay-as-you-go, which means that if you work even one day in a month you have health-insurance coverage for the whole month. We would time any strike so that members would be guaranteed a month of health-insurance coverage while on strike.

Q: What if I don’t think I can afford to go on strike? A: This concern is understood and respected. We would first encourage you to read our “S Word” article about financial options that can help during a strike. We would also ask you to weigh the cost of a strike to you personally vs. the cost to you for two years’ worth of OHSU’s take-backs. It’s likely that the long-term financial gains of a good contract would greatly outweigh the wages lost during an effective strike.

Q: Can I use vacation or sick accruals, or comp time, to cover my pay while I’m on strike? A: No — accruals cannot be used while an employee is on strike.

Q: What if I have vacation pre-approved and we end up going on strike during that time? Can I still take my vacation? A: Probably not. OHSU would most likely declare an emergency and cancel vacations. Our union would grieve this, but by the time the grievance process ran its course, the strike would be over. If OHSU cancels your vacation and orders you to work, you have the legal right to inform your manager that you are on strike and will not be returning to work until the strike is settled, but you wouldn’t get to use your vacation accruals.

Q: Can I work remotely during a strike? A: Virtually crossing a picket line is the same as physically crossing a picket line.

Q: How long would we need to be on strike? A: There really is no way to predict this. However, the more employees who go out and stay out, the greater the pressure put on the employer to settle and the more quickly the strike should be resolved.

Q: Can I be fired or otherwise retaliated against for going on strike? A: Absolutely not. Striking is a legally protected activity.

Q: What does the Local 328 bargaining team and member leadership do during a strike? Are they paid during a strike? A: All bargaining-team members, all members out on paid union leave to help with bargaining and all executive-board members are expected to walk the picket line, as well as participate in applicable meetings and events. None of the above parties would be paid during a strike; monthly officer stipends would be not be paid (or, if applicable, would be pro-rated based on the length of the strike).

Q: Do strikes work? A: From the Flint autoworkers’ sit-down strike, to the AFSCME Memphis sanitation workers’ strike, to the waves of teacher strikes over the last couple of years, strikes have absolutely worked and shaped working conditions and community standards for working people all across the country, not just for union members.

Q: How often does bargaining happen? A: It varies. Our current contract is a four-year agreement, and we’ve previously had three-year contracts. This year, Local 328 has proposed a two-year contract. All of these are considered typical.

Q: What if I’m unhappy about the outcome after everything is said and done and we finally have a new contract? A: Why not consider getting involved and taking action NOW — it’s not too late to help our union avoid a contract that you would unhappy with! Forward our emails to and talk with your coworkers, comment on our blog, take our bargaining survey, and participate in our actions and events to start. After our next contract is ratified, there is a lot you can do to get involved: observe a board meeting, write an article for our blog, become a steward or run for an executive-board seat (all of our board positions are up for election this fall). Assuming we reach an agreement on a two-year contract, we will back at the bargaining table with OHSU in only 16 months. Start thinking about the issues now and start talking to your coworkers now. What is a priority issue that OHSU didn’t recognize this time? How can we organize to win on this issue? Consider running for the bargaining team or the strike-preparation committee we’ll be forming for future contract negotiations (details to be announced at a later date).

33 thoughts on “Strike FAQ”

  1. This has so much good information, thank you! I know we all hope it doesn’t reach the point of striking but I’m ready if it does. I’m tired of the constant take backs and increasing costs of everything even though OHSU is making plenty of profit. Enough is enough!

  2. Thanks for all the information. I’m sick of having benefits wittled down each contract. I’m ready to strike if it comes to that.

  3. Thanks! This is helpful information. My house already has at least a month of my income saved and hopefully will have more if necessary.

  4. I am a critical function employee. I support striking if necessary, but having never been in this position before, I am not sure if I am allowed to strike?

    1. Thank you for your support, Colleen. Yes, you are definitely allowed to strike, irrespective of whether OHSU has designated you as a critical-function employee. Employees represented by AFSCME Local 328 are “strike-permitted” per the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act. (If you happen to be curious about which public employees can’t lawfully strike, lists can be found in ORS 243.736 and ORS 243.738.)

    2. You are allowed to strike without retaliation period. Nobody can tell you that you can’t strike. Many of us are critical employees. Do not cross the picket line.

  5. Thank you so much. The AFSCME bargaining team has done a fantastic job bargaining for a fair and reasonable contract. We all appreciate how well you have kept the members informed every step of the way. I hope it does not come to a strike. But let OHSU know we are ready if that what it will take.

  6. How does striking impact pay for salaried members? I’ve heard that pay is by the week, such that if you work at all in the week they have to pay you for the entire week. Is that true?

  7. We need to show OHSU that we are POWERFUL, UNITED AND ALMOST HALF OF THEIR WORK FORCE (7300). They must know that we will stand united and strike if they push back and are not fair in their negotations. We must let them know our numbers (7300 members) are united in solidarity and never forget we will strike if we must. By doing this everyday during bargaining we will hopeful advoid a strike. But I am and my fellow union members AREREADY TO STRIKE!
    Let’s pack the Town Hall on 5/22 …call everyone you know to be there…lets make the RALLY/INFORMATIONAL PICKET on June 13th the biggest OHSU have seen.

    Let’s also remember OHSU’s New President is from Texas, a union busting red state that is not friendly with unions. That Texas has poor health coverage for it citzens and in a group of states that have a low minimum wage. This is the environment our new corporate President/CEO comes from, profit over employees. This may not be him but it may be him (I don’t know), we can only go by his actions in these negoiations.

    Also how are we connection and have the other OHSU Unions show their support??? Maybe we can get stickers and buttons that say , “I Support AFSCME local 328″

    I AM READY TO FIGHT…AND STRIKE IF WE MUST!

    On a personal level, you may be asking why am I willing to strike. I live in portland and am only able to afford to rent a room. I live paycheck to paycheck, I can’t afford to own a car, I cannot save any money on my current income, and if an emergency comes up I am screwed. OHSU did not come to the table offering pay increases, they came asking for us to loose a vacation day, to cut our payout if we leave for a better positionsomewhere else, asking us to pay more for health care ( while other medical organization discount their employees health care). OHSU wants more from us….well, I have nothing more to give; I need more from them just to survive paycheck to paycheck. THAT IS WHY I WILL FIGHT, AND I WILL STRIKE!!!!!

    1. David Gale- OHSU makes it so hard to work here anyways
      (ie parking fees, transportation) the fact that they wont even give us a proper cost of living raise so we can afford a place to live is absolute BS!!! I’m with you!

  8. Everyone who hasn’t taken the bargaining survey: this is your primary step in supporting our and your union. After you take the survey- then put on a sticker and eat a green donut. Tell OHSU to stop taking advantage of employees! OHSU: Negotiate a fair contract that doesn’t make me have to choose between health insurance and healthy food, between rent or heat, between caring for myself when I am ill or staying out of disciplinary action.

  9. This info about the strike details is so helpful. Thanks for braking it down for us. I’m hoping that it doesn’t get to this. I hope OHSU bargaining team will listen to our requests: NO PTO! No extra insurance premium for my partner just because he is eligible for super crappy insurance by through his employer! We are a health care provider, lead by example, provide insurance for your employees without a premium. OHSU, your pockets are deep- provide for your employees.

  10. OHSUs responses today were the height of arrogance. I’m so ready to strike. This stops now. No means no, OHSU.

  11. Just wondering, I heard that the last time our union did strike, it only lasted less than a week. is this true?

    1. This is true. From my understanding, that strike (in 1995) didn’t have a lot of member support, so I’m not sure it was all that effective. Local 328’s current policy ensures that we’ll only go out on strike if we have strong member support, so that it would be effective.

  12. I hold a position as an Administrative Coordinator and have been at OHSU for almost 10 years, I currently live pay check to pay check as a single income household of 1 and have a part time job to help cover expenses above the normal day to day bills. I work 7 days a week because, as an employee of OHSU, I can not afford to support myself, pay of debt and save money for an emergency on my current pay. I already took a hit to my PERS when OHSU forced UPP on everyone (which I rejected as I came with an already set up PERS when I moved to OHSU) but I am not willing to take more hits, nor can I afford them!

    Additionally, please forward information as to how I request Union Support “swagg” and green donuts! I know my unit is in support and is willing to represent.

      1. Jennifer: I don’t think we do! When I first moved to this position about 5 years ago I would get packages to distribute but they stopped. Please feel free to start that back up again if you wish.

  13. Yes ready to strike and maybe find a new job if they don’t think I’m worth better pay,benefits and retirement.

  14. This was so informative. Thank you! Thank you for working so hard for us! You guys are doing an amazing job keeping us informed.

  15. Ready and willing to strike.

    Funny how OHSU leadership touts equity and progressive ideals around each corner, but when it comes to paying their employees, they suddenly worship the free market.

    Just because something is market-competitive, doesn’t mean it’s fair. Zero correlation, so keep that in mind. If the market dictated everything, you could pay someone 5 cents an hour, and justify it as “market-competitive,” so, let’s just forget about the legitimacy of this supply and demand language. I’m not a socialist-leaning individual at all, but I do recognize the importance of actively engaging in the bargaining process. I work in one of our labs, and if we walked out, leadership would cave in like 2 seconds. Unfortunately, there are limits to how far many of us can really utilize our real value, but just to show…you are more valuable than you think. We love working at OHSU, but let’s be honest, our patients are sicker, our care volume is higher, and we have the worst commute in the state. This is not about you vs. OHSU. YOU are OHSU. So don’t lose perspective.

  16. I’m ready to strike. Anytime.

    Funny how OHSU leadership preaches equity and progressive ideals around every corner, but when it comes to compensating their employees, suddenly they worship the free market. By the way, this isn’t about you vs. OHSU. You ARE OHSU…this is about who gets what slice of the pie. And if your slice is bigger, theirs is smaller. It’s that simple.

  17. I would very much like union leadership to help clear this up as well. Not knowing facilitates trepidation, which is terrible for bargaining.

      1. Jennifer:

        I was replying to someone else’s comment about critical function employees…I thought the system would quote their text, but it doesn’t do that. I found the answer though, thanks.

  18. This post is so helpful, thank you! I’ve only been at OHSU for four years. When I first started is when they reduced the employer UPP contribution for 12% to 6%. At the time it seemed like a small thing, because we received an across the board increase. But now that I’m more conscious about retirement savings and investing, this sticks out as a huge loss. With this round of bargaining it feels like the same thing over, and OHSU management’s communication has felt very condescending, dishonest, and disrespectful. Our torch bearing leaders have turned the hoses on their own employees.

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