This has been a whirlwind of a week!
On Tuesday, August 6, employees were notified on OHSU Now that a member of OHSU’s bargaining team, Patrick Frengle, had behaved inappropriately, noting that this “…team member had been posting on AFSCME’s social media channels using several aliases — often referred to as ‘trolling.’” Mr. Frengle was removed from management’s bargaining team. The following evening, OHSU president Danny Jacobs issued a statement on OHSU Now regarding the resignation of OHSU’s vice president of Human Resources [Dan Forbes] related to “his role in this activity.”
So what exactly happened here?
Mr. Frengle had created at least two fake Twitter account to troll our union with. (See our previous post for details.) One of his troll posts included a spreadsheet he had made, using false numbers, to artificially inflate the cost of Local 328 dues, and he appeared to be attempting to influence employees to drop their union membership. He also misrepresented, in multiple posts, our union’s positions re: wages and tiered contract language. During the course of monitoring Mr. Frengle’s troll accounts and documenting the connections to him, our team noticed that another suspicious Twitter account (“PeterPumpkinEater,” who was posing as a West Campus employee) had been interacting with his posts.
Our bargaining team believed that this other account was also linked to management’s bargaining team, so we began documenting social-media connections to the person we suspected was interacting with Mr. Frengle. “Peter” had liked many of Mr. Frengle’s anti-union troll posts and engaged in what appeared to be a coordinated back-and-forth discussion claiming that our union’s dues are regressive and harmful to lower-wage workers. On Monday, August 5, Local 328 staff called Dan Forbes to let him know of our concerns that a member of OHSU’s bargaining team had been trolling our union on Twitter. Mr. Forbes did not ask who we suspected of this behavior. During this phone call with Dan Forbes, the suspicious “Peter” account was deleted from Twitter. The following day, after Mr. Frengle had admitted responsibility for the trolling, we shared information about the “Peter” account with a member of OHSU’s administration. Dan Forbes’s resignation was announced the day after that.
Why is this so serious?
As stated by Oregon AFSCME’s executive director Stacy Chamberlain, “…these actions, at best, demonstrate an utter lack of respect for the workers at OHSU and their union. At worst, it is an attempt to illegally interfere in the bargaining process. We are continuing our investigation into this matter and the scope of the trolling by the management bargaining team members. We will take ALL appropriate legal action to protect our members rights to bargain a fair contract!” Oregon AFSCME’s attorney has sent OHSU a litigation hold/preservation notice/stop destruction request, calling for an investigation and a cessation of the use of public resources in unfair labor practices.”
Throughout AFSCME Local 328’s negotiations with OHSU, our members have expressed frustration about not being listened to by management and feeling disrespected by OHSU. The last few days have confirmed our bargaining team’s worst suspicions. We are deeply disappointed in OHSU, and have serious concerns about how trust can be restored moving forward. We are concerned about the integrity of the bargaining process thus far given the actions of these two men, especially considering Dan Forbes’s leadership position at OHSU and his significant role in our negotiations. Mr. Forbes is the person who sat across from our bargaining team explaining OHSU’s pay-equity proposals that would have punished our members for management’s mistakes. He is the person who stood in front of our members at OHSU’s bargaining forums trying to persuade us of the merits of OHSU’s PTO proposal. Dan Forbes is the person who would have had been the tie-breaker for benefits decisions that couldn’t be agreed upon by the Employee Benefits Council. He began attending our bargaining sessions back in April. Given his apparent animosity toward our union and his disrespect toward the bargaining process, how can our members have any confidence in OHSU’s integrity at the bargaining table since then (or even from the beginning)?
Dr. Jacobs’s message states that “OHSU remains committed to bargaining in good faith with integrity and transparency in the bargaining process.” Has OHSU even been bargaining in good faith? He also said that OHSU recognizes “we have work to do to regain your trust and are committed to moving forward with integrity” and that our employees are “our best asset.” OHSU’s actions over the coming days will let us know how sincere this sentiment is.
What steps can OHSU take to help regain the trust of our ~7,000 members?
- Conduct a through investigation into this matter and prove to our members that the bargaining process has been fair. Are the figures that have been shared with our union and our members accurate? Have other members of management’s bargaining team engaged in similar behaviors? Were other members of OHSU’s team aware of the actions of Mr. Forbes and Mr. Frengle? Was anyone in management, on or off OHSU’s bargaining team, responsible for the blog comment discussed here? What is happening within upper management such that this sort of behavior is encouraged and participated in?
- Stop disabling comments on bargaining-related posts on OHSU Now. OHSU claims that “Labor laws and collective bargaining agreements place restrictions on how OHSU and the union communicate about contract negotiations, which are not conducive to an open forum like comments.” There is nothing in our collective-bargaining agreement that limits OHSU’s ability to host comments on the OHSU Now website, and members of our bargaining team have made repeated comments on OHSU Now letting OHSU know that our union has no concerns regarding such comments.
- Restore the OHSU Now commenting rights of all employees who had these rights revoked as a result of having had their bargaining-related comments deleted.
- Rescind any formal coaching or discipline that may have been imposed on any member whose manager was contacted as a result of the member’s OHSU Now comments.
- Make it clear to management at all levels that unfair labor practices — such as publicly disparaging our union’s dues structures in an attempt to reduce our members — will not be tolerated.
- Share credit with Local 328 on joint ventures. If OHSU truly values its relationship with AFSCME, it will begin formally recognizing our role in the Career & Workplace Enhancement Center, grant opportunities, etc. Our union’s final offer includes co-branding language that we hope OHSU will recognize the value of and agree to.
- Seek the input of employees at all levels of the organization and recognize that we can work together to improve OHSU and our community. Our union’s final offer includes language to form a community advisory board that would work toward those ends.
- Listen to employees who’ve raised concerns about staffing levels at OHSU and work with us to ensure safe staffing. Our union’s final offer includes language to form a collaborative staffing task force.
- Stop pushing union-busting contract proposals that would split our bargaining unit and weaken our union: no mandatory PTO for future hires, equal across-the-board wage increases for all members of our bargaining unit, etc.
Local 328 hasn’t silenced people. Members of our bargaining team haven’t hidden behind fake names to troll OHSU on social media or share misinformation about OHSU’s bargaining positions. We haven’t played games — like floating outlandish proposals just to say later that we’ve made movement, or backtracking from our previous positions. Our message hasn’t changed since February: we’re here trying to negotiate a fair contract with OHSU for our bargaining unit. We want to work with management to help make OHSU the best place it can be, for employees and patients alike.
OHSU: On Tuesday, August 13, let’s negotiate a fair contract that respects and rewards the sacrifices and hard work that Local 328 members provide OHSU every day. Enough is enough.