Many of our members told us today that they were distressed or confused by OHSU’s communications about our July 19 mediation session and the declaration of impasse. We hope that the following information provides some clarity. As we mentioned in our own update, on Friday we let the OHSU team know that we were willing to declare impasse if they presented us with supposals or proposals that included PTO, health-insurance take-backs or tiered language (i.e., different benefits and wage increases based on hourly salary or hire date). Before we address why these three areas (and wage increases) are so important, we’d like to set the record straight on a few of the statements in OHSU’s communication:
- It’s not unusual that Local 328 “unilaterally” declared impasse. That’s how it works – it’s not something that the two teams need to do together.
- Our union, too, is disappointed that we couldn’t reach an agreement on Friday. The fact that this is the first time in more than 20 years that impasse has been declared should make it clear that this wasn’t a decision that was made on a whim.
- Everything outlined in OHSU’s communication came from a supposal — a supposal is a non-binding, “what-if” scenario.
- OHSU’s supposal did propose pulling the health-insurance take-backs, which we welcomed, but it still contained PTO and tiered language. It did not “meet the majority of the union’s interests on three primary issues.”
- Our team responded to OHSU’s supposal by declaring impasse because we felt no further movement could be made that day and that movement on key issues was unlikely to be made on July 23.
At the time we declared impasse, we had participated in six days of mediation. Our team had consistently told OHSU’s team that the three key areas mentioned above were non-starters, with OHSU consistently presenting us with supposals and packaged proposals that included all of them. OHSU’s non-binding supposal presented at the end of the day on Friday had pulled the health-insurance take-backs, but not PTO or the tiered language. In the hopes of avoiding impasse, our team asked representatives from OHSU’s team what it would take for them to pull PTO. We were told that nobody on OHSU’s bargaining team could make that decision — that it would involve “meetings” and “conference calls.” About six hours passed before OHSU responded to us on Friday — why weren’t the decision-makers brought into the loop during that time? On what was the sixth day of mediation, why weren’t the executives who make OHSU’s decisions available to keep negotiations progressing? We wouldn’t have been able to reach an agreement on Friday night and, based on our experiences during negotiations over the past five months, we had no reason to believe that the scheduled day of mediation on July 23 would have made a difference. That’s why Local 328 declared impasse.
In the end, it’s not really important what OHSU’s communication said, although we’re sorry that it threw our membership — and our non-AFSCME-represented coworkers — for a loop. Our communications throughout this process have been consistent, direct, honest and complete, and they’ll remain so. Going forward, we ask that our members focus not on messages crafted by OHSU’s Strategic Communications department, but on the proposals and what’s at stake as we work together to get a fair contract.
The Main Sticking Points
Health-Insurance Take-backs: It’s obvious why our team has so strongly opposed OHSU’s proposed take-backs in this area. Our members can’t afford the financial hit, and these take-backs are unreasonable and unfair in the light of OHSU’s record profits. OHSU’s “fundamental purpose is to improve the health and well-being of people in Oregon and beyond” — that should include its own employees. While OHSU’s non-binding supposal on July 19 did pull these take-backs, in light of the rest of the content of the supposal, it simply wasn’t a big enough step forward on the path to reach a fair settlement.
Two-tiered Contract Language: There are a number of reasons our union is strongly opposed to this. It’s a well-known way for employers to divide a bargaining unit and weaken a union. This article explains it a bit more. Suppose we had said yes to optional PTO for current employees and mandatory PTO for new employees — what do you think would happen three years from now, when OHSU will almost certainly take another shot at mandatory PTO for everyone? Well, we probably wouldn’t have enough member support to fight it — newer employees with PTO are unlikely to withhold their labor or be willing to give up other contract language so that older employees can keep their VAC/SIK system. We say this based on past experience — when OHSU came for the PERS pick-up in 2012, we were unable to build enough support to fight it, because the take-back didn’t impact UPP folks. We also think it’s unfair to throw future members under the bus — if PTO isn’t good for us, it wouldn’t be good for them. We’re stronger together, and we want a contract that’s fair for all of the employees we represent.
PTO: While there are certainly some members who would prefer a PTO system to the current VAC/SIK system, the vast majority of our membership is strongly opposed to PTO. That opposition has been consistent since before bargaining. There’s a reason that all of the unions at OHSU — who represent employees who punch a clock — are opposed to PTO. Because it’s faculty and managers who benefit the most from a PTO/EIB model — employees who don’t have to use their accruals to cover a late arrival due to child-care issues or an early departure for a medical appointment. More importantly, we view PTO as problematic from a patient-safety standpoint. Under a PTO/EIB model, there will absolutely be employees who feel they need to come to work sick in order to preserve their accruals for vacations and spending time with their families. This will put patients at risk of catching contagious illnesses from employees, and that’s not something we can support.
Across-the-Board Wage Increases: You may remember that OHSU’s initial economic proposal included yearly across-the-board wage increases of 1.0% for employees making more than $19.23/hour and 2.0% for those making $19.23/hour or less (once you knocked off 0.5% for pay-equity purposes). Local 328 believes that higher increases are a better way to help lower-wage workers — that’s why we initially proposed raises of 5.0% and 4.0%, for everyone, over two years. In the offer we presented to OHSU on July 19, we asked for across-the-board wage increases totaling 12% over three years. OHSU’s supposal offered increases totaling only 6.5% over three years. This simply isn’t in line with the realities of living in the Portland metro area.
Side-by-Side Comparison of Latest Positions
Below are the details of AFSCME’s and OHSU’s positions, based on the supposals exchanged on July 19. We’ve shared our thoughts about these areas and any proposed movement, even though nothing has been agreed to yet.
|Length of contract||3 years||3 years||We moved to OHSU’s position.|
|PTO||No||Optional for current employees, mandatory for new employees||The majority of our members have said “no PTO” for two years.|
|Two-tiered language||No||Still proposing splitting our unit with their PTO proposal||This is a non-starter. Contract tiers are a typical way for employers to divide and conquer a workforce.|
|Across-the-board wage increases||12.0%||6.5%||Our members cannot accept such low increases when OHSU has publicly stated that they are “on track for a record $150 million profit on record revenues of $3.2 billion.”|
|Insurance premiums||Current contract language||Current contract language||This is great movement — our actions are working!|
|Spousal surcharge||No||No||This is great movement — our actions are working!|
|Cap on premium increases||Current contract language||Current contract language||This is great movement — our actions are working!|
|Low-cost- option health plan||This is something to be decided by the Employee Benefits Council||This plan would offer savings to both OHSU and employees, including extra benefit dollars of $25 – $75||This is a great option for our members, and we appreciate that the EBC is planning to offer it to OHSU employees, but it isn’t a part of negotiations.|
|Wellness surcharge||No||Yes||OHSU’s supposal required AFSCME to vote with management at the EBC on implementing a “wellness inventive/ surcharge”|
|Vacation||1 additional day for all employees hired after 9/11/1998||1 additional day employees at 0 – 5 years||Employees both new and long-term have stated in OHSU employee-engagement surveys that burnout is a problem. This is a patient-care issue.|
|Weekend differential||Yr 1: 3%Yr 2: 5%Yr 3: 7%||No||Weekend shifts are hard to fill and our workers end up working overtime to cover these shifts.|
|Preceptor pay||5%||Pilot program: $1.00 after completion of preceptor education, certain jobs only (PT, OT, RT, SLP tech, surg tech, rad tech inpatient only, echo tech)||We are very close here but don’t want only a pilot program or only certain classifications eligible.|
|Float differential||3% (~1 range higher) for float-pool employees||No||HR requested we bring this to the bargaining table. We are perplexed that it continues to be an issue.|
|Community advisory board||Yes||No||This proposal would cost very little. There currently is no venue for all OHSU constituents to discuss ways to improve the workplace and the community.|
|Staffing task force||Yes||No||This is a very low cost proposal. Departments are so short staffed that patient care is often delayed.|
|Aid for lower-wage workers||Dedicated need-based funds for lower-wage workers, to be distributed by AFSCME||$100,000/year to hardship fund to assist w/ training or w/ food/transportation/ housing insecurity||This will be wonderful for our members. We look forward to creating this program.|
|Co-branding||Yes||OK as agreed upon between OHSU and AFSCME (hardship fund, CWE Center, etc.)||We are very close on this and appreciate OHSU’s movement here.|
|Wage increases retro to 7/1||Yes||No — lump-sum payment instead||We believe that a retro payment of the across-the-board increases is better for our folks.|
|403(b)||Withdrawn||No||We moved to OHSU’s position.|
|TriMet passes||Free||Passes offered at $50/year||We moved to OHSU’s position. This is great for our members. (TA)|
|Appendix A (salaried employees)|
|Progression increases||Yes||Yes||This is fantastic for our salaried folks!|
|Meal and rest periods||Yes||No||We believe that all employees should be able to take rest periods so they are able to provide great patient care.|
|Time tracking||No||Yes (e.g., for grants/ projects or supporting an FTE increase)||We are very close on this.|
|Pay for work on holidays||Yes||No||We believe that all employees should receive a premium for working on a holiday.|
Local 328’s bargaining team is dedicated to preserving affordable health-insurance, ensuring wages that adequately support the costs of living and working in this area, treating future employees as fairly as current employees and protecting a time-off system that doesn’t encourage employees to come to work sick. Our union is and always will be guided by our members’ priorities and activism. It is because of our members that we have moved OHSU’s administrators off so many terrible proposals. Local 328 declared impasse because we know our members are standing with us, defending our OHSU, the institution we sacrifice for and believe in.
We remain focused on reaching a fair settlement with OHSU, and look forward to continuing to work toward this goal in the coming weeks. In the meantime, though, since OHSU clearly isn’t listening to our members, it’s time to take to take a stand. We need to come together with allies, community partners, elected officials and our union family and make our voices heard! In a little under three weeks, we all have a chance to show OHSU’s leadership that we won’t sacrifice our patients’ safety and our own well-being so that executives can haul in more bonuses. Join us at our informational picket on Thursday, August 8, from 4:00 – 6:00 p.m. Defend our patients, our contract and our OHSU!