All posts by Jennifer Barker

“If Our Union Can’t Fight for Us, Who Will?”

—guest post by member Anna G.*—

I began my career at OHSU in 2012. When I was choosing which clinical site to spend my externship at, OHSU was the very first choice on my list. I still remember the butterflies in my stomach when I received confirmation that I would be learning at this institution. My face lit up with pride and glee every time I told someone where I worked. My family was absolutely ecstatic when they learned that I would be starting my career at OHSU. I was the first woman in my family on both sides to graduate from high school, much less go to college. There were times when my grandmother would tell strangers in the supermarket while I took her shopping, and the glow in her face as she did this would bring me tears of joy. I couldn’t have been more proud and delighted to be affiliated with OHSU.

Not long after I started at OHSU, the first round of AFSCME contract negotiations came about. It was disheartening to learn that so many take-backs had occurred. I especially remember the longer duration for step increases and how it would take more years of employment to reach the top of my pay scale. Even so, I still held onto the joy and pride I felt to be part of such an amazing hospital.

A couple more years went by and I started to feel a bit more ragged. The workload and patient population had increased substantially, yet the staffing levels had not. I was being forced to work a lot of mandatory overtime to make up for it. I had to stay late and come in on my days off on a weekly basis. As a single mother, this was very taxing. I was starting to miss out on my children’s lives, due to having mandatory overtime constantly hanging over my head. I couldn’t afford OHSU’s high parking rates, and instead rode public transit to work from across the city — my three-hour round-trip commute added to my frustration. Even with all the hours commuting and working at a fast pace, I was still a proud employee of OHSU.

Then everything took a turn for the worse — a coworker started harassing me. After a year of asking him to leave me alone and stop paying me so much unwanted attention, I faced my fear, risked humiliation and spoke up, asking for help from my supervisor. I thought that my courage in seeking help with the situation would be dealt with appropriately — after all, it’s OHSU, the hospital that talks about diversity and “respect for all” as easily and as often as the rain falls in the Pacific Northwest.

My concerns were alternately ignored and dismissed by my supervisor, and the harasser’s behavior was allowed to continue. My coworkers started to become concerned. I became an empty shell of a woman. I feared coming to work. My self-worth and self-esteem had all but disappeared. I was told that I was creating discontent in the workplace and was made to feel as though all this was somehow my fault. His actions were being validated by inaction and the whole thing was being swept under the carpet. With nowhere else to turn, I reached out to my Local 328 representative.

Within 10 minutes of the conversation, my union rep had me on the phone with two different departments for help. My rep went to bat for me in all of the management offices in my department, demanding that something be done. My rep gave me the advice I needed and made me feel heard and that someone was on my side. Even with my union representative fighting for me, I still had to utilize the justice system in order to ensure my safety at work. After all the time, anxiety, sleepless nights and heartache, I was finally able to come to work without fear of sexual harassment. I was able to start to breathe again — or so I thought.

The retaliation from OHSU that ensued after this hit me like a ton of bricks. All I ever did was cry for help, but I was punished for bringing light to my situation. How dare I tarnish the golden name of OHSU?

All this went on while my department was consistently understaffed, while my overworked coworkers and I attended meetings where staff were told about record-breaking exam numbers for our department and record-breaking profits. Now OHSU wants to take more away from me and my family. My family and I used to feel pride and joy about my employment at OHSU. Now that has been replaced by fear, sadness and distrust.

We need our union to fight for us. I can’t imagine how my situation would have turned out without our union supporting me. I can’t imagine how much worse OHSU would become without our union keeping it in check. Our solidarity means more now than it ever has.

*Name has been changed.

Working Without a Contract


As OHSU’s July 3 email mentioned, “The law requires OHSU to maintain the terms and conditions of employment that were in place under the expired contract. Terms and conditions of employment include many provisions of the contract, including pay, benefits, staffing and scheduling practices, and other employment practices.”  OHSU and AFSCME have been in this position in years past and members have not noticed any significant change in their work lives. 

Below is additional information about specific areas you might be wondering about.

Compensation: Progression increases on your anniversary date will still go through. Extra hours worked will still be paid at the overtime rate. Swing-shift and graveyard workers will still receive their differentials. Holiday pay is still in effect.  The only compensation matter affected is that there will be no across-the-board raises in July. The amount of these raises is being negotiated, and is one of the issues on which Local 328 and OHSU are still far apart.

Scheduling: Your approved time off is still valid.  Your work schedules will still be the same. Open shifts will be bid on as usual.  Overtime will be assigned in the same manner it was prior to the contract expiring. 

Insurance: Absent a strike, health-insurance premiums will continue to be paid on the first of the month and our represented employees should experience no disruption in coverage.

Seniority: Seniority rights are still in effect. Departments should be following the same staffing and scheduling practices they were previously.

Grievances: For now, the grievance procedure from our 2015 – 2019 contract remains in effect through Friday, July 12. Local 328 and OHSU have an agreement to review this specific extension on a weekly basis and it’s expected that it will continue. However, an extension of the grievance procedure is not required, so it could be suspended while we’re working without a contract. In that event, instead of grievances, our union would file unfair labor practices against the employer to formally resolve issues. 

Job Bidding/Transfers: The job-bid process still applies, as does the 4% pay increase.

If you have additional questions, feel free to ask them in the comments below or contact us at 1-844-758-6466.

Mediation Update: July 2


First things first — we didn’t reach an agreement tonight, but will be continuing the mediation process. 

We’d like to thank the several dozen green-clad members who came to the Oregon AFSCME building this morning. As always, the strong, visible support of our members is invaluable to our team and to the bargaining process! Check out our union’s Facebook page for a photo and video from the action.

This morning, our team gave OHSU a set of individual proposals (not as a package), in the hopes that we could reach tentative agreements on issues without economic impact. Local 328 agreed to withdraw several of our proposals, including to add FTE modifications to the language in 5.14 Layoff and to establish an advanced-certification differential. The teams reached agreement on the following:

      • 7.9 In-House Standby: Update the article to reflect current practice (stating that “sleeping arrangements” will be provided, rather than specifying that a private, locked sleeping room will be provided).
      • 9.1.4.g. Scheduling and Assignment of Overtime: Add language stating that if an employee is required to work more than 16 consecutive hours, the time worked beyond the 16 hours will be paid at double time.

We’re close to reaching agreement on the following:

      • 5.28 Relief Employee: Changes related to requiring relief employees to provide availability within a range of hours rather than requiring four days’ worth of availability.
      • 23.3.5 When Attendance Is the Issue: Changes related to modifying the time frame for attendance-related discipline in light of the provisions of the Oregon Sick Time Law.
      • 23.6 Unauthorized Absences: Changes related to improving the language around termination due to unauthorized absences (including no-call no-shows). 

At various points in the session, it seemed that the teams perhaps could have reached an agreement — it was a roller coaster of a day. We asked management for assurances that health-care take-backs would be off the table before our team could signal possibilities for movement elsewhere, but OHSU was unable to provide that. Late in the evening, our team attempted to produce an economic “framework” supposal for OHSU at the urging of the mediator, but we were unable to complete this tonight. Our team wrapped up our day at 11:15 p.m.

After 44 hours of work over the course of our three days of mediation, we’ve been unable to reach an agreement. Our bargaining team is still clear that our members’ priorities are no health-insurance take-backs, no PTO and decent across-the-board increases.

Our contract has been extended through Wednesday, July 3. Under an expired contract, many provisions of the agreement (such as anniversary dates, health insurance, etc.) do roll over; the parameters of the grievance process will need to be discussed and agreed upon with OHSU.

Unfortunately, the mediator is not available to work with our teams again until the week of July 22. We’re working to finalize the date of our next mediation session, which should take place at the beginning of that week. We plan to hold an informational picket, on a date to be determined, after that mediation session.

Thank you for your continued support over the coming weeks — we’re stronger together!

Mediation Update: July 1


10:25 p.m. update: We’re wrapping up for the day. We won’t have any updates until tomorrow.

Today’s mediation session is going to run even longer than our Friday session, so we wanted to give our members a quick mid-session update. OHSU presented a comprehensive package proposal to our union’s bargaining team around mid-day. After dinner time, Local 328 presented a comprehensive package proposal back to OHSU in response. We’re currently waiting for OHSU’s response to our latest proposal, which we’re expecting around 10:00 p.m. tonight. We’re hopeful about the process!

OHSU’s Misrepresentation of Its Latest Insurance Proposal


Throughout these negotiations, our union’s bargaining team has had many internal discussions regarding what we’ve perceived to be OHSU’s mischaracterizations in its Labor Relations emails of what has been discussed at the table, of the actions of our team, etc. We’ve discussed writing rebuttals to these emails, but our members have consistently recognized OHSU’s emails for what they are, and rebuttals have been unnecessary. We’ve said it before — we recognize that in this process both parties will communicate in a way that seeks to persuade the Local 328 membership. However, we believe that OHSU’s June 29 email is a misrepresentation of its insurance proposal, and at this stage of bargaining, the stakes are much too high for this to go unremarked upon. OHSU’s proposal wasn’t confidential, so we’re sharing it below as it was presented to our team, for you to read it — and judge it — for yourselves. We’ll have some additional commentary at the end of this article.

15.2 Insurance Contributions  — Defining FT/PT pursuant to current 15.2.1 and 15.2.2.

15.2.1 Full Time Employees — 

  • Beginning in 2020 plan year and for duration of contract, reduce Employer share of insurance premiums by 5% except exempt employees making $19.23/hr or less, determined at time of initial enrollment or annually on open enrollment (unless demotion, which would be treated as life event).
  • If a lower-cost PPO plan is enacted, the benefit dollars calculation will remain tied to the current OHSU PPO. OHSU will guarantee the savings and/or costs, as applicable, in the chart below for 2020, against 2020 premiums. Employees can use the difference between the benefit dollars needed to purchase the lower-cost plan to purchase additional benefits or to place into an FSA.(Wellness incentive remains in EBC, and management supports it.)
  • Change ODS to Delta Dental.
  • No additional opt-out for dental or life insurance.

15.2.2 Part Time Employees — P/T will pay 75% of contributions discussed in 15.2.1. Remove sentence about opt-out cash benefit.

15.X Spousal Surcharge — 

  • When spouse has insurance available through employer and rejects it to enroll in OHSU as primary coverage, then $50/month surcharge for year 1, $75/month for year 2, $100/month for year 3, $75/month for year 4, $50/month for year 5, unless both parties working at OHSU, or employee making $19.23 or less.
  • Employees attest at hire and annually on open enrollment. Consequences for falsely attesting.

Appendix C Employee Benefits Council — Current contract language.

2020 Employee Savings/Contribution Floor per month — Low Cost PPO [Ed. Note: This information was presented in chart form in OHSU’s proposal.]

  • Single: <$19.23/hr, $40.00; >$19.23/hr, $20.00
  • Employee & Spouse: <$19.23/hr, -$70.00; >$19.23/hr, -$140.00
  • Employee & Spouse w/ surcharge: <$19.23/hr, n/a; >$19.23/hr,             -$190.00
  • Employee & Family: <$19.23/hr, -$100.00; >$19.23/hr, -$200.00
  • Employee & Family w/ surcharge: <$19.23/hr, n/a; >$19.23/hr,               -$250.00
  • Employee & Children: <$19.23/hr, -$70.00; >$19.23/hr, -$130.00

Here’s a factual summary of this proposal, with no editorializing in favor of either party:

  • 15.2.1: OHSU continues to propose that most AFSCME-represented employees pay an additional 5% toward health-insurance premiums. OHSU continues to propose contract language that differentiates between employees making less than or more than $19.23/hour. OHSU is referencing potential savings/costs associated with a lower-cost PPO that does not currently exist. OHSU has proposed a wellness incentive that would be determined by the Employee Benefits Council. OHSU has proposed eliminating the dental and core-life portions of the monthly cash benefit received by full-time employees who opt out of health-insurance coverage.
  • 15.2.2: OHSU has proposed eliminating the monthly cash benefit received by part-time employees who opt out of health-insurance coverage.
  • 15.X: OHSU has proposed a five-year contract. OHSU continues to propose a spousal surcharge for applicable employees, but at a lower cost than initially proposed (except for year 3 of the contract).
  • Appendix C: OHSU is now proposing maintaining current contract language for the EBC (where the OHSU president will serve as a tie-breaker) instead of making the EBC an advisory body only.
  • 2020 Low-Cost PPO Chart: The numbers listed are associated with a lower-cost PPO plan that does not currently exist. They are not proposed savings/costs for the current OHSU PPO.

Here’s how OHSU represented the above in its June 29 email: “Before we ended for the day, our bargaining team responded with a counterproposal focused on insurance benefits only. We proposed language that would ensure employees have continued access to a great health plan at a lower cost, with premium costs to employees capped in such a way that employees other than those with a spousal surcharge would actually pay less in 2020 than in 2019. AFSCME rejected this proposal within an hour.”

OHSU’s email implies that it has proposed a lower-cost health-insurance plan that would result in savings for most of our members. It has done no such thing. The “great” lower-cost plan that OHSU is referencing does not currently exist, and neither do the savings. That’s not union spin — the very first word of that section of OHSU’s proposal is IF. 

With its latest proposal, management is asking our union to agree to make our members pay 5% more for health insurance, in the hopes that some day OHSU will offer a lower-cost PPO that might save some folks some money. OHSU continues to ask employees who are already struggling to make ends meet to shunt their spouses to worse insurance coverage or be financially penalized. Even if OHSU does end up offering a lower-cost PPO plan, it’ll also be a lower-coverage plan. That might be a fine option for some employees, but you should understand that OHSU is not saying that it would offer the current PPO’s coverage at a lower cost. 

The wellness incentive? That would be a hoop for you to jump through to get back the 5% that OHSU took away. If I stole the tires off your car, but said you could have them back if you agreed to take my car to the car wash every month for the next several years, am I offering you a great deal? And notice that any wellness incentive “remains at the EBC” — that’s the EBC where the OHSU president remains the ultimate decision-maker (under OHSU’s proposal). So even if OHSU were to initially offer to return the full 5% take-back for completing some wellness requirements, there’s absolutely nothing that would prevent management from deciding in the future to only give you back 2% — or nothing at all — for completing these requirements.

Contract after contract, our members have said that affordable health insurance is a top priority, but at no time has that been made clearer than during the current negotiations. Thousands and thousands of you have loudly and repeatedly rejected OHSU’s proposed insurance take-backs — OHSU doesn’t appear to be listening to you, but our union’s bargaining team is. 

Of course we rejected management’s proposal within the hour! And even though we were incredibly disappointed for our members that OHSU would present this kind of proposal as if it were a gift, we at least respected the bargaining process enough to have stayed in the building until the day’s business had concluded — that’s more than we can say for OHSU.

Mediation Update: June 28


In a 13-hour mediation session on Friday, Local 328’s bargaining team strived in good faith to develop a comprehensive package supposal for OHSU that addressed all of the outstanding issues that remained on the table. Late in the evening, OHSU responded with an insurance proposal that our team rejected almost immediately. To say that we were disappointed would be an understatement. 

With three days of mediation now under our belts, OHSU continues to propose the 5% insurance premium cost-shift, a spousal surcharge and other language that our members have rejected. Despite how clear our members have been about the hardship these take-backs present, OHSU does not appear to be listening. OHSU also continues to make proposals with two-tiered, union-busting language that we feel is an attempt to pit our members against each other. We’re not having it — ALL members of our bargaining unit deserve a fair contract. 

We question how seriously management is taking this process, since most of the OHSU bargaining team left the building before our team presented our final counterproposal. While the two parties still remain very far apart — and seem at times to be speaking different languages — we still hope to see movement from OHSU in the days ahead, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith.

As our union moves through the final phases of bargaining, it’s imperative that our members talk with AFSCME coworkers about bargaining. You must also consider what you’re willing to do to escalate if OHSU will not move at the table. As we’ve mentioned before, escalation will likely involve an informational picket and a strike authorization vote.

A detailed rundown of the day’s activities can be found below.

On Friday, June 28, the AFSCME Local 328 bargaining team spent almost nine hours reviewing all of the outstanding articles and issues remaining on the table. At approximately 4:45 p.m., we presented OHSU with a comprehensive supposal package. Although the details of the supposal must remain confidential, we can share the following highlights with our members:

  • Across-the-Board Wage Increases — Maintain our proposal of 5% and 4% increases for all members of the bargaining unit.
    • We fully reject any union-busting two-tiered language that would drive a wedge between our lower- and higher-paid employees.
  • Appendix A (Salaried Employees) — Maintain proposal for increased vacation accruals, eligibility for progression increases and other contract improvements; make some movement toward OHSU.
  • Staffing-Related Proposals — Reject OHSU’s many proposed changes related to attendance and resulting staffing issues; re-propose a staffing task force.
    • We strongly feel that attendance issues should be addressed by the managers of individual employees rather than via contract changes that would impact the thousands of employees for whom attendance is not an issue. We do share an interest in addressing staffing issues and problematic attendance, however, so hope to work collaboratively with OHSU on these issues by way of a staffing task force.
  • Insurance-Related Proposals — Reject OHSU’s health-insurance take-backs, including the spousal surcharge and the 5% premium shift to employees; maintain our initial proposal to return to a collaborative model for the Employee Benefits Council.
    • Our members remain strongly opposed to take-backs in this area.
  • Pay-Equity Proposals  Maintain current contract language (reject OHSU’s proposals to address potential pay inequities via wide-ranging changes to our members’ compensation.
  • PERS-Related Proposals — Maintain our proposals to restore the longevity rate and add a 403(b) match; withdraw proposal for retirement offsets in the event of legislative changes to the PERS program.
  • Vacation and PTO Proposals — Maintain our proposal for increased vacation accruals for all members of the bargaining unit; reject OHSU’s PTO-related proposals.
    • Our members remain strongly opposed to changing the current VAC/SIK system.
  • Miscellaneous Proposals
    • Certifications — Make movement toward OHSU here; maintain language that would create a new differential for employees with advanced certifications.
    • Lump-Sum Payment — Withdraw this proposal in order to free up the estimated-by-OHSU $3.69 million for use in economic improvements in other areas of the contract.
    • TriMet Passes — Make movement toward OHSU here; maintain language that would still result in cost savings for our represented employees. 
    • Other — There are still a number of other proposals on the table, including around co-branding, contracting, bereavement leave and length of the contract. We also proposed agreement on a few articles.

At 7:45 p.m., OHSU presented our team with a counterproposal around health insurance, which included:

  • Offering a five-year contract.
  • Maintaining the premium 5% cost shift to employees, except those making $19.23/hour or less.
  • Reducing the opt-out cash benefit for full-time employees by limiting the dental and core-life portions.
  • Removing the opt-out cash benefit for part-time employees
  • Referencing a not-yet-in-existence lower-cost PPO that would theoretically offer savings to employees based on whether they make more or less than $19.23/hour.
  • Referencing not-yet-in-existence wellness requirements intended to give employees a chance for employees to earn back the 5% premium take-backs.
  • Changing the spousal surcharge to $50/month for year 1, $75/month for year 2, $100/month for year 3, $75/month for year 4 and $50/month for year 5 — except for employees who make $19.23/hour or less or when both employees work at OHSU.

OHSU’s team stated earlier in the evening that they would be working on a comprehensive response to our supposal over the weekend, to present on our next day of mediation, Monday, July 1. As such, we wanted to respond to their insurance proposal before the weekend so they could work on all outstanding issues. While the Local 328 bargaining team was preparing a counterproposal to present to OHSU, we saw the majority of OHSU’s bargaining team leaving the building for the night. Despite this, we were able to present a counterproposal to the three members of the management team who remained. Before wrapping up around 9:20 p.m., our union presented a health-insurance counterproposal that included the following:

  • 15.2.1 Full-time Employees — Maintaining current contract language (100% employer contribution for employee-only health insurance).
  • 15.X Spousal Surcharge — Rejecting any form of a spousal surcharge.
  • Appendix C Employee Benefits Council — Maintaining our proposal to return to the collaborative model that served both parties well for many years.

Despite the lack of movement in this mediation session, we continue to hope that OHSU will bring our union a fair contract package that meets our membership’s needs. In the meantime, both teams agreed to extend our current contract through Tuesday, July 2. 

Bargaining Update: June 25


As the end of our current contract draws closer (June 30!) it’s important for our members to maintain the same strong support for our union that you’ve shown throughout negotiations. Please join us at the following events this week:

  1. Town Hall: Tomorrow, Wednesday, June 26, from 12:00 noon – 1:00 p.m. in UHS 8B60. This is your opportunity to ask questions about the proposals that are still on the table, as well as learn more about what happens (up to and including a strike) if we can’t reach agreement by the end of our current contract. The town hall will be live-streamed** for members who are unable to attend in person — the link will be sent via email. Light refreshments will be served.
  1. Green-Out the Board: Thursday, June 27 at 1:15 p.m. — wear green and meet us at the Robertson Life Sciences Bldg. atrium at 1:15 p.m. for our action at the OHSU board of directors’ meeting. RSVP here. 

**The live-stream for this town hall will be presented using Nexus rather than the Echo360 system that we’ve used previously. This will allow for a more interactive experience for those viewing, but it will require a bit of additional setup if you haven’t previously used Nexus. It’s recommended that you connect using Google Chrome as your browser — if you use a different browser, you’ll be directed to use the Nexus app. You can download the Nexus app for Windows here and for Mac here. If you wish to download the Chrome browser, you can do that here.

We’re excited to share our bargaining financial-impact calculator that will show our members the gains you would see in your paychecks based on Local 328’s initial economic proposals and how much money you’re likely to lose based on OHSU’s initial proposals (based on raises vs. insurance take-backs). You can also see how your vacation cash-out amount would be reduced under OHSU’s PTO proposal. The Excel spreadsheet can be downloaded here. A Google Sheets version can be downloaded here. To use the calculator, after downloading, click Enable Editing at the top of the spreadsheet, and then just enter your information in the green cells (some cells have drop-down menus) and the spreadsheet will calculate everything for you. We’ve also included a section that will show you the potential gains that would offset losses during a potential strike. We’ll demo the calculator at the town hall tomorrow. (Note: A earlier version of the calculator overstated the cost of dues. If you downloaded the spreadsheet prior to June 28, please grab an updated version for the most accurate estimate of the financial impact of the bargaining proposals.)

Today our bargaining team met without OHSU, since our state mediator was unavailable. The team reviewed the 20 or so non-economic proposals still on the table and decided on responses to prepare for OHSU. We also finalized plans for upcoming bargaining events and actions. At the end of our session, we split into smaller teams and visited work units to distribute flyers and treats for our members.

Our next mediation sessions with OHSU will be held on three consecutive business days: Friday, June 28, and the following Monday and Tuesday, July 1 and 2. If there hasn’t been significant movement toward an agreement after this point, you should expect escalation, which will likely include an informational picket, other actions and a strike authorization vote.)

As we move into the final phases of bargaining, it’s imperative to consider what you’re willing to do if OHSU will not move at the table. OHSU proposes financial take-backs every contract because it thinks our members will just lie back and accept it, but you have the power to prove OHSU wrong and say “enough is enough.” Our union’s ability to bargain a fair contract without take-backs lies in our members’ hands.