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by Michael Stewart, Local 328 Vice President
One of the most common concerns I hear as a Local 328 member leader is “I don’t like that our union is involved in politics!” or “I don’t like that our union endorsed a particular candidate.” As much as we would like to avoid politics and the difficulties and polarization that come with it, the truth is that politics is a vital part of what our union does. Not because we choose it to be, but for simple survival and to meet the needs of our members. Examples of how politics on all levels directly affects working families (whether union or non-union) are numerous.
Since the elections of 2010, we have witnessed the targeting of public-employee unions by then newly elected governors and legislatures across the country. Wisconsin and Iowa stand as stark examples of what is at stake for the working class when we fail to directly take on the political threats to our wages, benefits and right to collectively bargain. Anti-worker legislators and governors swept into office in both states. As soon as they were sworn in, they jammed through, often without so much as a public hearing, bills that eliminated fair-share fees, forced yearly recertification of unions, barred automatic dues payments and severely limited or eliminated collective contract bargaining. How has this affected the working families in these areas?
In an article for The Atlantic about the effects of Act 10 in Wisconsin, Alana Semuels discusses how the reduction in union power has affected the middle class. For example, one married couple (both teachers) saw their combined wages decrease by 11%. Overall, teachers have seen an 8% decrease in total compensation. Some teachers have had to take second jobs or leave the field all together. This worsened an already growing teacher shortage in the state. Public employees across the state have suffered similarly. A restriction on the right to collectively bargain wage increases so that they only match the rate of inflation has reduced the upward pressure on wages in the private sector, leading to a flattening of wages and an increase of income inequality within the state.
Oregon AFSCME has a robust and active political department consisting of paid staff and volunteer member leaders, with a very successful PEOPLE program that helps fund our work. As such, we have been mostly successful in helping elect pro-worker legislators and defeating anti-worker candidates and initiatives. I say “mostly” because, despite our union’s best efforts, we have seen the ugly face of anti-worker politics within our own state. In Lane County, where many employees’ wages were as much as 25% below market, management demanded that employees pay more for health insurance and retirement benefits; couple with anemic wage increases, this would have amounted to a decrease in employees’ take-home pay. These unfair demands were not due to a lack of money on the part of the county, but to the political philosophy of a few of the commissioners, one of whom is a Scott Walker protégé. Yamhill County narrowly escaped striking over many of the same demands and conditions of the Lane County strike.
With so much of the well-being of our members and our members’ families riding on the policies and legislation of our governor, legislators, county commissioners and other elected officials, it would be negligent for AFSCME not to be involved in determining who will write policies and legislation as well as helping shape the content of these policies. In my next article I will detail the process used by our union when we endorse a pro-worker candidate, how our fellow members educate elected officials about the work we do and how their legislation impacts that work and how we stay effective despite opposition.
It may seem early to be talking about bargaining, but to bargain effectively requires a lot of planning and preparation. Here’s a look at a general timeline for our upcoming contract.
When we bargain a contract there are timelines that must be met due to contractual or legal requirements and timelines that we set for ourselves to insure an orderly and strategic progression through the bargaining process.
Our contract expires on June 30, 2019. Settlement could happen on or before that date but our experience tells us that we usually settle in July or August. Bullets highlight critical events.
Spring 2017 – Mid-term membership survey by polling firm.
Summer/Fall 2017 – Establish member action team.
Fall 2017 – Begin member education program about bargaining which will continue through bargaining.
Summer 2018 – Nominate bargaining team.
Summer 2018 – Bargaining team candidate panels/campaign.
Summer/Fall 2018 – Train bargaining team.
Fall 2018 – Member forums, informal and formal surveys, unit steward hosted lunch and learns.
Fall/Winter 2018/19 – Work with polling company to develop comprehensive bargaining survey based on member, bargaining team, leadership and staff input.
Winter 2019 – Deploy professional survey.
February 2019 – Pre bargaining discussions with OHSU.
March – July 2019 – Weekly, all day, bargaining sessions.
March 2019 – State mediation pre-requested to meet statutory 150 day notice requirement.
June – July 2019 – Contract placed in final form and proofread, if settlement has been reached
June – July 2019 – Member ratification vote, if settlement has been reached
July – August 2019 – Mediation, if required.
July – August 2019 – Notice of declaration of impasse, if required
August – September 2019 – Notice of declaration of 30 day cooling off period, if required.
Summer/Fall 2019 – Job actions and picketing, if required
by Micheal Stewart, Local 328 Vice President.
Dear Brothers and Sisters of AFSCME Local 328,
Last month I was sworn in as the new vice president of our union. I have been active with both Local 328 and Oregon AFSCME for eight years in several different offices and roles. My goal as a member leader has always been to serve the interests of union members and working families. I consider it a privilege to now serve as your vice president.
Our union is fortunate to have highly skilled, hard-working member leaders who serve on the executive committee and executive board and in the steward program. However, we are lacking a very important element that is vital to any organization that wants to fully and honestly represent its members: diversity. Local 328 has the most diverse membership within Oregon AFSCME in terms of race, ethnicity, age, income level and immigration status — we must strive to develop leadership that is similarly diverse in order to provide a voice for all the members our union represents. The strength that comes from diversity is moral as well as practical.
The moral strength comes from having leaders who share experiences with all of the members who will be affected by our union’s decisions. This is done by making sure members from traditionally marginalized communities are empowered and are given a voice to express their questions, concerns, and satisfaction—or dissatisfaction—with both our union and OHSU.
The practical strength comes from being better able to tackle complex problems from several different points of view, backgrounds, skill sets and experiences. It also helps to avoid groupthink and balance biases that are present whenever a group of people works together to achieve a goal. An article in Understanding Science describes it this way: “[S]cience relies on a diverse community, whose personal views run the gamut: liberal to conservative, tree-hugging to business-friendly … Scientists strive to be impartial and objective … but in those occasional cases in which personal biases sneak in, they are kept in check by a diverse scientific community.” The power that diversity can bring to an organization is very often underestimated or overlooked.
The union movement hasn’t always recognized the value of a diverse membership. This fact was not lost on employers, some of whom have exploited racial, ethnic, and other tensions to pit working people against each other. Because of these past difficulties, it is important that current leaders not merely ask people to step forward but that we actively recruit and invest in an effort to improve diversity. Both unions and employers now recognize that the ethnicity, race, sex, faith, physical abilities, and sexual orientation of workers can be the bond that reaches beyond differences in job classification, wages and education. This bond of shared experience is an asset to any organization that is open, welcoming and willing to learn. AFSCME Local 328 must be such an organization.
Our union is committed to providing the moral and practical strength of diverse member leadership. We are not yet where we should be in order to fulfill this commitment. We are currently developing a plan to reach out to underrepresented members of our union to recruit folks to leadership positions within our union — this will be my top priority as vice president. I ask for your help in fulfilling this commitment. If you or a coworker are interested in or have questions about joining the steward program, executive board or some other form of service to our union, please call (503) 329-9084 or email me at vice-president@local328. With your help, we can make Local 328 an even stronger voice for our members and working families everywhere.
Michael Stewart, Vice President, AFSCME Local 328
The OHSU benefits office recently sent an email to employees who currently have domestic partner and domestic partner child coverage. The email read:
“Last year, OHSU announced its intent to end benefits coverage for domestic partners and the children of domestic partners. The Employee Benefits Council recently reviewed this decision and the timing of implementation, and has decided to further postpone this change for an additional year.
With this delay, all coverage of domestic partners and domestic partner children will continue until Dec. 31, 2019. Employees who wish to add domestic partners or domestic partner children to their benefits may do so through the end of 2018. No new enrollments will be allowed beginning Jan. 1, 2019.
The EBC will continue to monitor the accessibility of affordable health insurance alternatives and will re-evaluate the proposed change in 2018, prior to its effective date.
Please contact our office with any questions.
As things currently sit, employees may still add domestic partners and dependents thru the end of 2018. The employee benefits council will revisit this topic in 2018 before anything goes into effect.
The decision to offer domestic partner benefits in the first place was made some time ago. The original intent was to offer a benefit for employees who wanted to cover a partner or dependents, but weren’t able to legally marry their partner. After the 2015 Supreme Court ruling, this rationale is no longer valid.
Current marriage options aside, there is still a subset of the OHSU population who prefer to cover their family thru a domestic partner benefit.
While we believe that family is family, there is a very lose definition of what’s required under the current domestic partner language. The 2017 eligibility language requires that partners: “Currently reside together and intend to do so for the foreseeable future.”
The issue is that some domestic partner employees will change their partners and dependents multiple times within a 12 month time frame. The plan is obligated to cover everyone, every time and it generates a significant cost. While it’s not the role of the EBC to be the lifestyle police, we do have a fiduciary responsibility to our stakeholders on how the health plan is managed and how employees benefit dollars are spent. This type of behavior was never how the benefit was intended to be utilized when it was created.
When the Employee Benefits Council voted to extend the sunset this year, we also were able to change the eligibility language. The new language states: “The two individual have jointly shared the same permanent residence for at least twelve (12) months immediately preceding the addition of the Domestic Partner and intend to continue to indefinitely share the same permanent residence.”
While AFSCME can’t speak for the full EBC, the new language goes into effect in 2018 and we believe it will sufficiently address the problem. Recognizing that, it’s likely that the EBC will vote to lift the sunsets but maintain the new language when this topic is revisited in 2018.
No. Not unless we agree to, and we haven’t done that.
[Edit] You can download a copy of the PTO proposal here.
Local 328 continues to get questions about PTO in response to OHSU’s recent communication on the subject. While many took the wording in OHSU’s blog post to mean that OHSU is moving forward with PTO even though the nurses did not agree to change to a PTO system in their contract negotiations, what OHSU was communicating is that PTO continues to be a priority for them and that they will go ahead with it for unclassified employees and they will continue to propose it to represented employees.
Local 328 has NOT agreed to a PTO proposal. OHSU cannot simply impose PTO on our bargaining unit without our agreement. OHSU knows this and they have never indicated any attempt to do anything but follow the contract.
We DO have contract language which says we will meet and form a task force with OHSU. A task force is a place where we can discuss PTO, look at possibilities for changes and make recommendations. A task force is not collective bargaining and we are not required to come to a resolution by participating in a task force.
Our contract does NOT obligate us to formally bargain over PTO prior to negotiations in 2019. However, when bargaining begins OHSU may decide to put a PTO proposal on the table.
We are committed to full disclosure and membership involvement and no changes will be made without that discussion and involvement.
At this time only one meeting has been held and that was between OHSU and AFSCME staff for the purpose of allowing OHSU to explain what was being provided to unclassified employees. As of this time OHSU has not contacted to our union to formally propose that the task force be formed and begin meeting. We will let you know if they do.
We will to continue to post updates on our FaceBook page on our blog so that members may comment and share ideas and concerns.
IN MY OPINION: By Tara Karnes
How does the National Institutes of Health’s proposed 18% budget cut on research affect me?
I am not in research and my work, as a custodian, seems far removed from the national debate on NIH budget cuts. I mean; a eighteen percent budget cut does not seem like much. So, why would this concern me?
Well, for one thing my job is to clean the Bio Medical Research building at Oregon Health and Science University. And I hear things.
Down those hallways I hear the hum of ultracentrifuges; cranky large freezers holding cells or proteins, and what else… I do not know. I pick up the garbage and sweep up used Pasteur pipettes under the feet of upcoming research scientists. Many of whom, spend hours attached to microscopes like a stereotypical cliché mad scientist. Sweeping underfoot of these researchers I listen to their conversations and concerns, worries and fears about how NIH budget cuts will effect their work, and so… I decide to do some research about this issue on my own.
Here is what I discovered…
The goal of the NIH’s mission is to seek fundamental knowledge about the nature and behavior of living systems and the application of that knowledge to enhance health, lengthen life, and reduce illness and disability. That sounds pretty good since health care is a major concern for most people. I know this personally; because my daughter had a tumor and was given a cadaver bone transplant replacing a cervical bone in her neck. Knowledge from research allowed a team of doctors repair my daughter’s health.
What does an NIH budget-cut mean?
The proposed budget for NIH is a 18% deficit in their budget. The equivalent of a 5.8 Billion dollars!And according to NIH director, Francis Collins, he says, funding research offers short and long-term benefits, both by developing new treatments for deadly diseases such as cancer and diabetes, as well as stimulating the economy.
In fact, for every $1.00 invested in the NIH returns $2.00 dollars in goods and services to the economy within a year! That is something we need! Right?!
We not only care about healthcare but we care about our economy too right? I know I do! Our government’s administration has plans to slash NIH overhead cost payments to universities and research institutes. Hey wait a minute! I work at a university and in a research building!
Oregon numbers FY 2016
• $275 million in NIH funding
• 616 NIH grants awarded
• 43 NIH-funded institutions
• 41 NIH-supported clinical trials initiated at Oregon institutions
• 26 Oregon businesses received NIH funding totaling $21 million
Each grant awarded by the NIH means jobs. Not just research jobs, but jobs for students, and office jobs, like clinical coordinators, and of course my JOB! Under each researcher is a host of other jobs that support that research.
That is pretty important is me and it should be to you too!
As a AFSCME union member I want to encourage all fellow members to ask your unit stewards about the NIH budget cuts and how those cuts will effect our OHSU jobs, people you know and the community.
Please feel free to contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org
I will be happy to share what I have learned so far in my own research of NIH budget cuts.
If you are as concerned as I am, please email your representative.
To contact, and look up, your personal representative go to http://www.house.gov/representatives and also share your message with:
U.S. Rep. Greg Walden, chair of the House Energy and Commerce Committee, https://walden.house.gov/contact-greg
U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley https://www.merkley.senate.gov/contact
and Ron Wyden https://www.wyden.senate.gov/contact/
In Food and Nutrition Patient services, nearly one hundred employees help to prepare and transport meals to patients. Generally these meals are prepared, loaded on to trays, and then placed in carts that are then transported to room service associates on the corresponding nursing unit.
Every day in the morning and the evening, there is a “stand-up” meeting in the kitchen for food service workers.
During the stand-ups, the manager on duty will gather everyone in a circle and go over important updates for the day. While a stand-up is in progress, patient meals still need to be delivered, so occasionally a room service associate will come down to the kitchen to grab their cart of patient meals, in an effort to not interrupt the stand-up meeting and ensure the patients are receiving their meals on time.
On Sunday March 12, during a daily afternoon “stand-up” meeting for food service workers in the kitchen, a supervisor grabbed a worker by the arm and yanked them.
In this instance, a room service associate came down to retrieve their cart, and one of the food service workers saw them waiting outside of the stand-up circle. The food service worker silently grabbed their cart and began to wheel it toward the waiting worker through the stand-up circle, when the supervisor grabbed him by the arm and yanked them away from the cart. The pull was enough to throw the worker off balance, in front of the entire staff assembled for the meeting. According to many witnesses of the event, there was no imminent danger to the employee that would explain this action.
This event bears a resemblance to the recent event in which an employee was pushed by a superior in the kitchen, which has put some of the workers in the kitchen on high alert, for fear they will be grabbed or shoved by a manager and have to go through the same lengthy process that it took for the previous matter of physically inappropriate behavior by a superior in the kitchen to be settled.
We are hoping that OHSU will take the correct action in this matter.
Local 328 would like to send as large a delegation as we can muster to Council 75’s annual leadership conference. This is a great opportunity for our stewards and union officials and an even greater opportunity if you are not a current leader or activist or if you are new to our union.
You will learn about our union, what makes us stronger together, how we can be better and how you can help.
If you want to attend, or if you want more infomation use this form.
Learn more about the leadershio conference here.
Maria Frazier loved her job.
Last week, Maria and her mother drove to the AFSCME office on Burnside to talk to us about the events following her discovery of a small noose in her workplace. During our conversation, she kept coming back to that — she loved her job. She was good at it. She helped patients.
That’s what makes the events following the noose incident painful. In the long run, Maria’s love for her job didn’t seem to matter very much to the people who were responsible for ensuring that OHSU is a safe, harassment-free workplace.
She recalled the events of that day: “I was walking through the office and ran into the practice administrator. I showed him the noose and he said he had to take it down. He hadn’t seen it before. There were other people in the office but they didn’t say anything or remark on it. I was with a coworker and she said this was unacceptable. [The practice administrator] took it down and I walked to my desk. I showed my immediate supervisor the picture and she said that it wasn’t there yesterday. She was surprised. “
“I went to my desk and called my family and [called] a friend and showed her the photo (I emailed her the photo). They were shocked. I told her that I felt uncomfortable and I was going to be leaving. My family told me I could get an escort if I feared for my safety. I just left without an escort.”
Maria said she was told to contact Human Resources. It was about a week after the incident when they finally called her. Maria didn’t feel like HR was an effective advocate for her.
“When you have friends, you are going to protect them and make sure that you don’t risk your financial stability. They don’t care. It’s a waste of time, no one cares, just get another job.”
“No one from Affirmative Action called me, no one contacted Dr. Gibbs [OHSU Vice President for Equity and Inclusion], no one asked for follow-up. It’s all about them being friends.”
To Maria, it felt as if OHSU’s priorities were backwards. Its lack of action had the effect of “making me feel like I was the cause of the problem because I reported it. I was the problem. They didn’t make me feel like I was the victim of a hate crime or of discrimination. They made me feel like [the employee who put us the noose] was the victim. It was like he was the one who got hurt, because someone told on him.”
“I was hurt when they found no racial intent. I was hurt by it, and was made to feel that I’m overly sensitive and I should go get the free counseling. I was insulted by it. It’s like they are saying that racism is here and it’s up to me to learn how to accept it.”
“At this point I don’t feel like anything is going to change. I had confidence in a system which had failed.”
For Maria, the losses keep piling up.
“I loved my job. I still think about the patients. I fought for them, I fought insurance companies for my patients. They lost a valuable employee. At the end of the day, because of the color of my skin, no one noticed that anything was wrong. I think about the people who would hug me, who were very sick, and saying ‘Maria, this might be my last visit.’ I think about them.”