When Local 328 first “went public” with the issue of employee abuse in the Environmental Services department (EVS), OHSU’s first response was to show concern about our methods: Why did we go public? Why is this coming out of nowhere? Why aren’t you using “the process”? Why are you holding vigils in our hallways? Some of our members were shocked too. Responses ranged from concern that we weren’t filing complaints with the “proper” authorities, to asking why we didn’t do this long ago.
We think it’s safe to say that everyone is learning as we go through this process. Our union is learning that while formal processes are important tools, they are not the only tools, and that public opinion and direct member action can get results when the “proper channels” don’t. We won’t speculate on what OHSU has learned, but we can report on how it has responded.
Since the second week of our campaign, OHSU has been constructively engaged with us on the matter of EVS employee abuse. We don’t agree with every step OHSU has taken, but there is clearly a desire to get to the bottom of our union’s claims and to work with us to create a safe process for members to tell their stories.
- OHSU has agreed that, going forward, some type of independent investigation is needed, though we haven’t yet held detailed talks about what that will look like.
- OHSU has agreed that we need to work together to reform the complaint process so that future complaints will be dealt with more effectively and we will begin meeting about that, most likely in January.
Signs of Progress
Last week, OHSU took the first steps toward opening an effective and meaningful investigation. In the interest of not compromising that investigation we are being deliberately vague, but we can assure our members that positive and constructive steps are being taken.
We can further assure our members that if the current investigation backs off or if it isn’t aggressive enough, our union will not hesitate to call that out. We sincerely hope there will be no need for that — our goal isn’t to create conflict but to resolve the problem of employee abuse in EVS and elsewhere at OHSU.
We have also been clear that our union views the current investigation as an emergency intervention and not a substitute for a fully independent investigation.
There are other work units with similar concerns and our union is not going to end our workplace-abuse campaign until all of them are investigated and corrective action is taken. When we first started this campaign, we thought it would be necessary to call out each department over a period of weeks in order to raise and sustain pressure on OHSU to take action. We are still going to do that, but hope we will be able to do so in the context of reporting on results rather than fighting to have the problem recognized for each department.
This Isn’t Over — You Can Help!
This isn’t over by a long shot, but we are heading in the right direction. More than ever we need members to be engaged and active around pushing this issue to a successful resolution. You can help by:
- Continuing to support EVS workers by attending a vigil. We meet at the 9th floor fireplace twice each day — you may sign up for a vigil here.
- Sharing your story with us. You don’t have to be an EVS worker — our union wants to help end worker abuse at OHSU, not just in EVS. Call (971) 271-7832 and leave a message for us to get back to you.
- Attend the Bureau of Labor and Industries training on worker abuse and discrimination, sponsored by Local 328 – learn more and sign up here.
Thank you for all you have done so far!