Please share your story in the comments.
If you want to talk to us confidentially call 971 271 7832 and leave a message telling us how to contact you, a Local 328 Staff member will call you back.
November 23, 2015
Dear Brothers & Sisters of AFSCME Local 328:
This letter serves to update our membership on our ongoing campaign about supervisor abuse of employees in OHSU’s Environmental Services (EVS) department.
Local 328 Meets With OHSU on Supervisor Abuse
From 8:00 – 9:30 a.m. today, Local 328 president Matt Hilton, chief steward Michael Stewart and staff representatives Kate Baker, Dennis Ziemer, Corey Nicholson and Frank Vehafric, as well as AFSCME Council 75 attorney Jen Chapman, and met with OHSU vice president Dan Forbes, attorney Darryl Walker, Support Services senior director Pete Hazel, HR mission directors Hollie Hemenway and Joni Elsenpeter and HR business partner Wes Phillips.
In the interest of allowing participants to speak freely at the meeting, our union agreed not to quote any individuals in our report on the meeting. We think it’s important not to stifle honest discussion by calling out individual comments from either side.
The meeting basically had two points of discussion: OHSU’s complaints: re: union activity and our union’s concerns about supervisor abuse in EVS.
OHSU Complaints about Union Activity
The meeting began with a discussion about Local 328’s recent actions: holding vigils for EVS workers, handing out leaflets and union “swag” at those vigils and taking photos and video at those vigils, as well as the content of some bulletin board and Facebook content.
OHSU is concerned that our union’s presence violated the contract because we were not there for what they considered a “matter related to employment.” Our union disagrees with this assertion. We will continue the vigils and we will continue leafletting employees. We will let OHSU know the content of our leaflets, but we will not agree that OHSU has any right to approve or reject our leaflets. What we choose to educate our members about is our business.
OHSU was further concerned that some photos we posted were objected to by some of the people photographed. Out of respect for those people, we agreed to take down the photos and video from our Facebook page. Our intent is to show our union in action, not to inadvertently offend anyone.
OHSU’s final concern raised was over a cartoon that was placed on a union bulletin board at OHSU. We agreed to remove the cartoon.
Union Concerns about Supervisor Bullying In EVS
Our union expressed concern that the abuse of employees by supervisors in EVS is ongoing and that the current process in place is not adequate to address it, as evidenced by the fact that the abuse has continued despite years of employees and our union using the existing process.
We expressed our concern that no investigation conducted by OHSU can be independent, despite the best intentions of HR staff or leadership, due to the structural relationship of HR with the management team.
We told OHSU that it is our belief that a neutral and independent party needs to conduct the investigation. We also believe that community resources, or perhaps professional resources, need to be brought in to help the investigators learn how to work with employees who have been traumatized by the work environment or by their experiences prior to coming to work at OHSU.
We further made clear that there are more departments than EVS that have abuse issues, and that our union is concerned about all abuse, not just abuse by supervisors. If lead workers or other AFSCME-represented coworkers are abusive, they must be held just as accountable as supervisors.
We further explained that going forward, regardless of how the current situation is resolved, we need to reform the current internal complaint processes at OHSU since they obviously haven’t worked.
It is clear from OHSU’s response at the meeting that it is responding to our union’s efforts to shine a light on supervisor abuse at OHSU.
- OHSU stated that it is committed to ending employee abuse.
- OHSU stated that is are committed to investigating and disciplining, if appropriate, supervisors and other workers who abuse our union members.
- OHSU stated that it is committed to protecting our union members from retaliation.
- OHSU asked for the names of the EVS and Custodial Services supervisors and lead workers our union suspects of abuse. We provided those names.
- OHSU asked for the list of additional departments our union feels have serious enough systemic supervisor abuse to warrant further investigation. We provided that list.
Note, that we said, “is responding.” We are at the beginning of a process that may well bear fruit. However, despite OHSU’s stated commitments:
- We have not solved the problem of supervisor abuse.
- We have not reached agreement on what the investigative process will be.
- We have not reached agreement on who will be conducting the investigation.
- We do not have agreement on how we will assure members that an investigation will be unbiased.
- We do not have agreement on how we will reach out to our affected members so that they have confidence in the process.
- We have not yet reached agreement on how members are going to be protected from retaliation.
- We have not reached agreement that once an investigation starts, the supervisors being investigated will no longer have authority over the members making the complaint.
- We do not have agreement on how our union will be assured that supervisors will be dealt with using the same standards that bargaining-unit members are held to.
- We do not have agreement on the issue of reforming the current internal complaint process
All of the above issues are still open issues. But we are meeting and talking, and OHSU clearly would like to move forward to resolution. We believe today’s meeting represents progress, and that OHSU is serious about its commitments. But, as always, the devil is in the details.
We need to be sure that the resolution isn’t more of the same processes that haven’t worked in the past.
We need a radical departure from business as usual in order to get at the truth.
Help us keep the pressure on OHSU to keep the commitments it has made and move to an agreement with our union on the issues still outstanding.
YOU are making progress, but this is not over.
AFSCME Local 328