Significant Progress in Ending Worker Abuse in EVS
A lot has happened since AFSCME Local 328 began our campaign to end employee abuse in Environmental Services (EVS). When our union began the campaign, we insisted on:
- An independent investigation.
- An improved complaint policy. (One that didn’t rely on OHSU Human Resources to administer it — due to the inherent conflict of interest on the part of HR representatives who spend their working lives supporting management.)
OHSU has agreed to both of these proposals and we are moving forward with them.
Our union provided information about some specific abuses to OHSU; OHSU has followed up with internal investigations and we have begun to see positive changes in EVS. As we said in an earlier report, we will not be specific about the changes we have seen, for the privacy of the people affected by these changes.
OHSU has agreed to hire a neutral facilitator to conduct labor/management meetings — not just in EVS but also in two other OHSU departments that we believe are problem areas: Food & Nutrition and Patient Transportation.
Through it all, EVS employees have continued to work every day, despite uncertainty and fear of retaliation. They have come forward in increasing numbers to tell their stories. During AFSCME Strong Week, after the Martin Luther King holiday, Local 328 hosted an EVS appreciation event that was well received by EVS employees. At the event, more people began to speak up and express a willingness to talk to the independent investigator once the position is filled. EVS employees have shown exceptional courage in speaking up and exceptional dedication to OHSU and their jobs throughout this difficult time.
OHSU Files Unfair Labor Practice Complaint Against Local 328
Our union’s EVS campaign has not come without a cost, however. Local 328 and OHSU are now involved in litigation, since OHSU filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Local 328 over the rights of union representatives to have access to work areas and non-work areas to meet with workers or attend vigils for EVS. OHSU has alleged several contract violations by the union over the presence of union staff representatives and volunteers in hallways and elevator-access lobbies during our EVS vigils and during AFSCME Strong Week. Like a grievance, a ULP is a means to resolve disagreements — this will get sorted out in due time.
It’s important that Local 328 protects our right to have access to our members at work. It is also important not to overreact and create an unnecessarily adversarial atmosphere — our union needs to be able to work with OHSU effectively on the many joint projects we have in progress and on those committed to in the most recent contract.
We’re Almost There…
Overall, the EVS campaign has been successful in bringing hope to our members that their working conditions will dramatically improve. There has been some fallout over issues of staff and volunteer activities during this period, but we expect to get these issues resolved.
The support of the entire community of AFSCME Local 328 members has been crucial to the success of this campaign.
We expect to extend the positive results we’ve had in EVS to other departments.