What’s Happening with Bargaining?

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As you’re likely aware, the Local 328 bargaining team recently put in 44 hours over three days of mediation, including a marathon session of 16 hours on June 28. Even so, these sessions didn’t result in an agreement. So, our bargaining team will go back into mediation with OHSU on July 19 and 23. As we go into our next mediation sessions, our union’s bargaining team is wholly committed to utilizing every possible option to get the best contract possible for our members.

Since our contract expired on June 30 and there’s been a gap between mediation days, some members are asking: Why aren’t we picketing yet? Why haven’t we voted for a strike yet? What’s taking so long? There are a number of reasons for this, but the most important one is this: the stakes are far too high to rush this process. This year is the best chance our union has ever had to get a good contract with no take-backs, for a number of reasons:

    • Our Members: It’s not an exaggeration to say that our members are more engaged than we’ve ever seen. In the post-Janus environment, union members across the country, including at OHSU, have seen what they stand to lose without a strong union. Many of us are struggling due to the economic reality of living in the Portland metro area today, and we’re not willing (or able) to accept financial take-backs from an employer that enjoys record profits year after year. Our members know what’s at stake with these negotiations.
    • Our Bargaining Team: It’s also not an exaggeration to say that our 2019 bargaining team is the most well-trained, most engaged team our union has had, due in part to a number of changes our union made for these negotiations. We changed the makeup of our bargaining team, going from a combination of sector and at-large reps to an all at-large team. We greatly expanded the role of member leaders in the negotiation and communication processes. We started training our team four months before bargaining began. We changed the negotiation style being used, going from interest-based to traditional bargaining.
    • OHSU: Our employer has a new president and a greater focus on growth, expansion and profit. More than ever before, OHSU has made it clear that it cares about little else other than its faculty and its bottom line — the employees who help the faculty and institution succeed seem to be an afterthought at best. The current culture at OHSU has created employees who have had enough and are willing to fight for a fair contract.

Between our rally at Mac Hall, our action at the OHSU board of directors meeting and our surprise picket at the Oregon AFSCME office, Local 328 members have shown the strength of collective action, and OHSU is keenly aware of our members’ engagement level.

Why Aren’t We Picketing Yet?: We are planning to hold an informational picket in early August. Why not sooner? Because it’s extremely important that we get the picket right. A rushed, poorly planned event with only a few hundred members in attendance won’t help us get a fair contract. An organized, well-planned picket with thousands in attendance, including community members and political allies, takes time to arrange. Our informational picket will be done right, and planning is underway. Please save the date of Thursday, August 8.

Why Haven’t We Had a Strike-Authorization Vote Yet?: This spring, thousands of members took our bargaining survey and indicated support for a strike. Our members should be aware, however, that our union requires more than just a majority of votes to authorize a strike — we must reach a certain threshold of voters for the vote to be valid, in order to ensure that enough members would support a strike. For example, if we held a vote in which 95% of the voters authorized a strike, but only 1,000 of our 5,000-plus members had voted, we would not go on strike. Simply stated, if a majority of our members won’t participate in a vote, it’s unlikely they would withhold their labor in large enough numbers for a strike to be effective. A successful strike-authorization vote will require broad outreach and communications, with bargaining-team members, stewards, AFSCME staff representatives, unit stewards and rank-and-file members actively working to get the word out. Although planning is taking place, as long as our union is still actively negotiating, our bargaining team must stay focused on the task of getting our members a fair contract at the table. If it becomes clear that we’ll be unable to reach an agreement with OHSU at the table, our union will hold a strike-authorization vote beginning on Monday, August 19, and will direct 100% of our attention and effort toward ensuring a successful vote. In the meantime, our members can help by talking about bargaining with coworkers and other AFSCME-represented employees, especially those who haven’t been paying as much attention to the process.

What’s Taking So Long?: Again, we’re still in mediation. We’re not at impasse. We don’t yet know what OHSU’s bottom line is. Our goal has always been to get our members a fair contract with no take-backs and that remains our goal, so we’ll participate in mediation as long as we’re seeing progress toward that goal. A lot of the mediation process involves confidential “supposals” that can indicate where the parties might be willing to move, as well as packaged proposals that can indicate what the parties’ priorities are. Although it might not seem like it from the outside, movement is being made (albeit slowly), so it makes sense to continue with mediation at this time. There’s too much at stake to rush the process. In the event that impasse is declared, we’re legally required to then wait a minimum of 37 days (for final offers/costing and a cooling-off period) before we can strike. This is a marathon, not a sprint — it could be days, weeks or even months before we get to the finish line. In the meantime, please join us on Tuesday, July 16, at one of our drop-in sessions or at our town hall.

Our members’ ongoing support and engagement is greatly appreciated by our team and has been so valuable to the bargaining process. We are stronger together!


23 thoughts on “What’s Happening with Bargaining?”

  1. Matt, Very detailed, concise and clearly written explanation of where we are at and where we are going – thanks! It helps ease the tension and was very informative/appreciated.

  2. Keep it up bargaining team! You are doing a amazing job and I can not express how much I appreciate every minute you all have spent working to get us a contract we all deserve. Stay Strong.

  3. Thank you so much to the bargaining team putting in all these hours! I will share this info with as many AFSCME peeps as possible. I have had lots of people asking when/if we are striking and there is a lot of frustration and anger at OHSU’s crappy proposals.

  4. Good things are worth waiting for,our department has talked about striking.We all are in favor of a strike,but are hopeful that we won’t have to.Thank you bargaining team and we all fully trust and admire, the hard work you’re putting in on making sure our future is fair.

  5. “OHSU has made it clear that it cares about little else other than its faculty and its bottom line — the employees who help the faculty and institution succeed seem to be an afterthought at best. The current culture at OHSU has created employees who have had enough and are willing to fight for a fair contract.”

    This rings so true. I can’t help but feel let down by OHSU at every turn of the process. We need to stand up now more then ever. They are not taking this seriously, and I assure you that we are. AFSCME we are with you. We are ready to walk, but we respect the process.


    I will be there July 16th.
    I will save the date to picket on August 8th.
    I am ready for a strike vote on August 19th.

  6. The bottom line ceases to exist without the hard work of AFSCME-represented staff. We are continuing to carefully pay attention to and stay engaged with each step of this process, no matter how long it takes. We will not be worn down or tricked. Our bargaining team is much too smart for that!

  7. I will be there the 16th and 8th …I will take the 8th off to participate…I will vote Yes on the 19th and will get everyone I meet to vote ….ask me what I can do and I will do it as long as it does not conflict with my daily work….CAN WE HAVE A WEEKEND PICKET…WE COULD GET THOUSANDS TO SHOW FOR IT IF IT WAS ON A WEEKEND WHEN MOST ARE NOT TRAPPED AT WORK. WE NEED TO MAKE IT EASIER FOR EVERYONE TO PARTICIPATE.

    1. I don’t know if I’m right, but I think the reason we aren’t doing it on weekends is that we want faculty, human resources, and top ohsu folks to see us. They take off weekends and we do need to get them uncomfortable with seeing all of us together in solidarity. A weekend show would be nice, though.

  8. Sad to say, unless OHSU moves A LOT closer towards what AFSCME has proposed, I don’t see any other way forward except striking. I work two jobs so won’t be able to make either event unfortunately but I am ready to vote yes for a strike if it comes to that.

  9. Thank you for such a concise update. I’ll share this information with my co-workers. I have been working on keeping everyone informed hoping I can get non-members to join. . For the 8th, is this a day time or evening action?

    Would a Sunday informational picket bring more participants?

  10. I hope OHSU will show its employees, patients and Oregonians the respect they deserve by making significant chances on their side next mediation.

  11. I’m so grateful to the bargaining team.

    I’m feeling really steamed at OHSU. I’m hoping your next report back has me feeling like they’re seeing the reasonable position of the proposed increases from the bargaining team. I just heard from a co-worker that Oregon State workers are looking at a potential 15% increase over the next 2 years with their contract. Which honestly, seems extremely reasonable, given that year after year workers in Oregon have seen our rent skyrocket and other costs go up.

    Unemployment is down to 4% – and job vacancies across the state are at 19%. OHSU already has a hard time filling positions, and the stubborness and stinginess of their economic proposals make it seem to me that they are trying to keep us understaffed, otherwise they would have to increase wages.

  12. Thank you for all of you hard work. I am ready to contribute in any way that I can to ensure a fair contract, even if it involves striking! It is my hope that OHSU makes reasonable concessions before we get to that point.

  13. Interesting that OHSU has enough money to sponsor a marathon, yet cannot come up with any money to give it’s employees a fair contract. Laughable.

    OHSU- Try spending your excess money on something that actually matters. Fighting with your employees over percents, out of pockets, etc. when we are working two jobs yet turning around and throwing money on a random race is embarrassing. DO THE RIGHT THING. YOUR EMPLOYEES DESERVE BETTER.


  14. Lets also not forget about the local counties. They are also getting some nice COL raises on top of their regular pay.

    Keep up the pressure dont settle for anything less than what we ask.

    Proud member of the Post It Note Nation ! #STRIKE2019

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