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).