6/11 Bargaining Session — Mediation Begins

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We concluded our first day of mediation on Thursday, June 11. After starting before 8:00 a.m. to prepare for the arrival of the mediator, the team felt pretty wrung out as we finally cleared the building after 8:00 p.m. — a long day. Next week the union team meets in caucus on Thursday, all day, in preparation for our second and final mediation session the following week on Thursday, June 25.

OHSU has stated that they do not intend to extend the contract if we do not reach agreement at that time — it feels like an intimidation tactic to us. If we get an agreement on June 25, it will be because it’s a good agreement, not because of pressure tactics from the employer.

Keep checking the blog, Facebook and your email for updates. Click the “Contact Us” button on the top menu bar of our website if you want posters, buttons or stickers.


Mediation Report

The OHSU and AFSCME bargaining teams met jointly to start mediation and hear the opening remarks of the mediator. She stressed the confidentiality of the proceedings — mediation proposals are confidential unless the parties agree otherwise. After the mediator’s introduction to the process, the teams split up into separate rooms and spent the rest of the day, about ten hours of it, exchanging packages of proposals.

We can’t report the mediation proposals and package, but we can say that some progress is being made. However, the teams are far apart on major economics. We did settle some matters and execute a number of tentative agreements, including:

  • Severance benefits: employees will have the option to receive the cash equivalent of the COBRA benefits if they choose
  • Unauthorized absences: employees will have an opportunity to explain extenuating circumstances
  • Basic computer-skills training: employees will receive some paid training time for such training
  • Preferential hire list: employees returning to work from the PHL will not lose credit for seniority no matter the reason they went on the PHL

The bargaining team pays attention to the comments on the blog and Facebook and to the actions of members and work units who support us. It’s incredibly encouraging to see members stand up and it makes a real difference at the table — everyone notices, including management, when members get active.

Strike — How Do We Get There from Here?

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Striking is a drastic, last-ditch effort to get to an agreement on a contract when other methods have failed.

What does the law say about strikes? What is the process to go on strike? Here are ten steps unions need to go through in order to strike:

  1. Bargaining: back-and-forth, face-to-face negotiations.
  2. Mediation: assistance from a third party (the Oregon Employment Relations Board in our case) to help the parties resolve outstanding issues. Mediators have no authority to force an agreement or make awards to one side or the other — they are facilitators only.
  3. Impasse: if no settlement is reached within 15 days of the first mediation session either party may declare impasse
  4. Final offer: within seven days of the declaration of impasse both parties must submit their final offers and the cost estimates of these final offers to the ERB.
  5. Publication: the ERB publishes the final offers and costs.
  6. Voluntary fact-finding: prior to the start of the “cooling-off” period, both parties can agree to petition the ERB to engage in a fact-finding process (this almost never happens)
  7. Cooling-off period: following publication, there is a 30-day cooling-off period.
  8. Strike vote: this vote would happen before strike notice is given (no strike could occur without union members voting to strike).
  9. Strike notice: after the cooling-off period, the union may give the employer a ten-day strike notice.
  10. Employer implementation of its final offer: at any time following the cooling-off period, the employer may give the union five days’ notice of its intent to implement all or part of its final offer, without agreement from the union.

Depending on how things play out (when impasse is declared, when a strike vote happens, how soon after the cooling-off period the union gives notice), a strike could happen as early as the end of August or as late as September or early October. We are going to dedicate a future article on strike preparedness and what members need to know in order to strike effectively.


 

Below are excerpts of the strike provisions of Oregon’s collective-bargaining law for public employees. You may read the full document here.

OVERVIEW OF OREGON’S PUBLIC EMPLOYEE COLLECTIVE BARGAINING ACT (PECBA)                                    

 The Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), ORS 243.650 – 243.782, establishes a collective bargaining process for Oregon’s public employers and unions representing public employees. The PECBA is administered by the Employment Relations Board (ERB), a state agency. The three members of the Board are appointed by the Governor.

Direct Bargaining

The PECBA contains a number of steps designed to help the parties reach agreement. The public employer and the union representing the public employees are initially required to meet and bargain directly with each other (ORS 243.712(1)). The PECBA requires that the parties participate in good faith negotiations for at least 150 calendar days before either party may unilaterally request the assignment of a mediator.

During this period of direct bargaining, the bargaining teams generally meet in face-to-face negotiation sessions. In the traditional “position/proposal-based” process, the parties usually identify the issues for bargaining and then exchange and discuss proposals in an attempt to reach agreement on those issues. Some parties use a variety of other collaborative processes. 

Mediation

If the parties do not reach agreement in direct bargaining, they move to mediation (ORS 243.712(2)). The State Conciliation Service, a division of ERB, is responsible for providing the mediation services.

Once the request for mediation is made, a mediator is appointed. The parties are notified of the appointment and a mediation session is scheduled as soon as a mediator and the members of both bargaining teams are available. If the first session is unsuccessful, additional mediation sessions may be scheduled. The PECBA mandates that parties remain in mediation for a minimum of 15 calendar days. Typically, one or two sessions will occur during this time. After the 15 days, the parties may continue in mediation or either party can initiate the next step in the process by declaring an impasse in the negotiations.

Local government employers and unions are each charged a fee for collective bargaining mediation services (ORS 240.610). The local public employer and the exclusive representative shall each pay one-half of the amount of the fee to the board.

When a settlement occurs during the mediation process, the terms of the settlement, along with any agreed-upon contract language, are set out in a tentative agreement that is signed by the parties. This tentative agreement is usually subject to ratification by the bargaining unit members, as determined by the union’s bylaws, and the public employer’s council, commission, or board.

Declaration of Impasse, Final Offer, and Cooling Off Period

If no settlement is reached within 15 days of the first mediation session, the parties may either continue in mediation or either party may declare an impasse (ORS 243.712(2)).  A party declares an impasse by filing a written notice of declaration of impasse with ERB and submitting a copy of the notice to the other party on the same day the notice is filed with ERB.

Within seven days of the date the declaration of impasse is filed with ERB, both parties are required to submit their final offers and cost summaries of their offer to the mediator. The final offer should address all issues and include all disputed contract proposals. Any proposed contract language must be labeled “Final Offer.”

A party’s cost summary must separately list the economic impact for each item in their final offer for each year proposed. It must also include the total of the costs for all disputed proposals in their final offer and an explanation of how the costs were calculated. A copy of the final offer and costing must also be sent to the other party.

After the mediator receives the final offers, cost summaries and proposed contract language, the mediator makes them public. A copy of these documents may be obtained once they are made public by making a written request to the State Conciliation Service.

A thirty-day “cooling off” period follows the publication of the final offer. The purpose of this time is to allow for further attempts to resolve the dispute prior to the parties exercising their self-help measures.

Voluntary Fact Finding

[T]he PECBA still provides for a voluntary fact finding process (ORS 243.722). Parties may access the voluntary fact finding process by jointly petitioning the ERB to initiate fact finding during the 30-day “cooling off period.” The petition to initiate fact finding must be written and may be made in letter or other format. A 30-day cooling off period begins when the fact finder issues a report. The mutual acceptance by the parties of the fact finder’s report results in a contract. If either party rejects the report, the bargaining process continues.

Strike-Permitted Employees: Strike and Final Offer Implementation

The final step in the collective bargaining process for unions and employees of a strike-permitted unit is the right to strike. The final step for an employer of a strike-permitted employee bargaining unit is the right to implement its final offer. A strike-permitted employee union and employer may also jointly agree to resolve their labor dispute through binding interest arbitration (ORS 243.712(2)(e)).

The employees in a strike-permitted bargaining unit may go on strike after completing the prior steps of the PECBA bargaining process in good faith and giving 10 days notice of their intent to strike (ORS 243.726). The notice must specify the first day of the strike and the reasons for the strike, including the list of unresolved issues. The notice may be sent during the 30-day cooling off period, although a strike cannot occur until after the 30-day period.


The employer of a strike-permitted bargaining unit may implement its final offer after completing the prior steps of the PECBA bargaining process. Under current ERB case law, the employer is required to provide the union reasonable notice of its intent to implement. In that case, the Board said five days was reasonable. An employer may implement all or a portion of its final offer. 

6/4 Bargaining Session — Pharmacy Represents!

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One of the biggest surprises of the bargaining season so far started to shape up on Wednesday when email traffic started to blow up with Local 328 members from the Pharmacy department  planning to attend bargaining. Honestly, we expected two or three at a time to cycle in and out over the course of the day.

It was an incredible lift for the bargaining team when almost 20 Pharmacy employees, along with a few other members, showed up with signed petition in hand, to directly confront the management bargaining team with their concerns about OHSU’s slide to the middle of the pack. You can read the petition here. Please go to our Facebook page to check out the group photo and use the comments to thank these members for their support.

OHSU Responds

The day was taken up with an exchange of counter-proposals; OHSU responded to the union first, and later the union responded, in part, to OHSU.

There were some highs and lows to OHSU’s response. The high point was OHSU’s proposal to raise the minimum wage at OHSU to $15.00/hour, in increments over the next three years. This came as a surprise to the union, but frankly we are pleased they made this proposal. They are doing the right thing by low-wage workers — now they need to step up and do the right thing for the rest of our members.

Unfortunately, there was little good news in the rest of OHSU’s counters to the union’s proposals.

  • OHSU rejected the union’s proposal to raise health-care contributions for members
  • OHSU rejected the union’s proposal to stop benchmarking wages to the middle of the market and use the 66th percentile instead
  • OHSU rejected the union’s vacation-increase proposal
  • OHSU rejected the union’s proposal for parking expense relief by having a parking-fee holiday in December
  • OHSU rejected the union’s proposal for weekend differentials
  • OHSU rejected the union’s proposal for subsidy pay for members called up to active duty in the military
  • OHSU rejected the union’s across-the board (cost of living) pay increase proposal
  • OHSU counter-proposed across-the-board pay increases of 1.25%, 1.25%, 1.00% and 1.25% over the next four years

We also received a lengthy verbal preamble to their response, telling us that OHSU has already shared its prosperity with us, and now it’s time for us to give back and to come down to Earth. We just don’t realize how good we have it. Who knew?

You get the idea.

Now, it would be unfair to say that no progress has been made. OHSU did give indications that we could make progress on some of our other economic proposals, but the scope on which they seemed willing to move was quite limited.


The union spent most of the day working in caucus on our response. Altogether, between the two sides, there are almost 50 specific economic proposals in play — that’s a lot of moving parts. We responded in detail with two packages of proposals that could generate some forward progress. None of the progress or exchanges resulted in any tentative agreements on Thursday, and none addressed or made progress on what we consider the major economic issues.

All of the major economic proposals and counter-proposals will be addressed next week in mediation. In the next few days we will publish an article explaining the mediation process and what to expect going forward.

Why We Do This

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I sit here, tasked to write three or four paragraphs to activate you, to get you thinking that maybe, just maybe, we can win this thing if we all do it together. The thing is, many people — and forgive me if you aren’t one of them — don’t seem to know how a union works or even, frankly, what a union is.

For three or four years, things tick along pretty well. Folks get their raises, union stewards or staff show up when someone is in trouble or to help work out other problems in the workplace. When things go south, we call your bosses for you, talk to Human Resources for you, give you advice, answer your questions, intervene when coworkers can’t get along, write the newsletters, train the stewards, run the elections that practically no one votes in — all the things your dues money goes to provide.

So what’s the problem? Members pay dues, staff and activists provide services — that’s the deal, right? No — just no.

Think about why any of this works. Where does a union’s power come from? Does it come from hiring a hard-nosed lawyer to bargain our contracts? Does it come from making outlandish bargaining proposals so that when management meets us half way, we’ve got a great deal? Does a union get its power because employers just want to get along with employees and not be embarrassed in the newspapers?  Does a union get its power from a bargaining team just saying “no” until management gets bored and caves in? You don’t believe that — not at all.

Unions get their power from their members acting together.

Unions get their power, ultimately, from their members being willing to withhold their labor rather than take a bad deal.

And make no mistake, this is about power. History, facts, argument and goodwill can only take you so far. At the end of the day — like they say in sports — it’s all about who wants it more.

We all want a good contract. If we could get a good contract by the bargaining team sitting at the table steely eyed and saying “no” until the cows came home, we’d get a good contract. It doesn’t work that way — you know it doesn’t.

Here is what I love about working for the union: I never know where courage and leadership is going to come from. It is found in the most unlikely places. The poorest workers will take the biggest risk. The single mom will become a tiger looking after her family’s interests, pharmacists will band together to look out for each other, members who understand unions and collective action will be mentors for those who are less familiar. Folks will bring forth talents that I, and sometimes they, didn’t know they had.

Start small — make yourself heard. We can do this.

Thank you.

Comments Of The Week – What Are Your Coworkers Saying About Bargaining?

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The top three comments win a neat grab bag of goodies — delivered in person!

Top 3

Jennifer Barker

MAY 29, 2015 AT 11:08 AM

One major issue with OHSU’s plan is that it creates a form of double punishment for higher-seniority employees who get disciplined. Suppose a department has two employees with written warnings—its most senior employee, who has worked at OHSU for 10 years, and its least senior, who has worked at OHSU for 2 years. Come vacation-scheduling time, the employee with only 2 years’ seniority would have had last pick anyway, so OHSU’s proposed restrictions don’t have an additional effect on them—they’re already at the bottom for seniority even without the discipline. So, both of these employees have received the same level of discipline, but the punishment is harsher for the most-senior employee. How is that fair?

Nobody, coworkers or managers, likes working with lazy, jerky employees. What OHSU has proposed is not the way to deal with them. Managers already have the tools they need to deal with problem employees—how many of them actually use these tools? If you’re in a department with someone you feel is consistently performing poorly, you might ask why your manager isn’t taking the steps necessary to discipline that employee in order to improve the working conditions of everyone else.

Many of us have worked for, or have friends who’ve worked for, bad managers here. Many of us have also seen OHSU do mass layoffs, cut retirement benefits, etc. over the years. Do folks really believe that there won’t be bad managers who use this proposal unfairly or that OHSU wouldn’t take advantage of it if they needed to do some drastic cost-cutting in the future? This proposal has the potential for serious negative ramifications. I’ve worked with a lousy employee before, and it does make one’s work life more unpleasant. The way to deal with poor performers, however, is to actually discipline/manage the individual poor performers, not to take away the contract rights of more than 5,500 employees.

Have you noticed that OHSU hasn’t proposed anything to reward high performers? They don’t even go through the motions of holding an annual holiday/employee appreciation event anymore. OHSU has been in excellent financial shape for years, but they’re not even willing to shell out for some cheese cubes and mini-cheesecakes once a year to thank their employees.

Today’s email from OHSU about their proposal states “We feel strongly that OHSU’s agreement with AFSCME should reflect our organization’s value of performance excellence and promote fairness for all employees.” The union agrees! OHSU’s way of showing how much they value performance excellence is to propose stretching out our pay progression, keeping our wages average, carving away our contract rights, etc. Do you feel valued?

DM

MAY 31, 2015 AT 9:04 PM

My biggest concern with this proposal is the belief that disciplinary action is a measure of performance. It’s degrading as an employee. What about the skills I bring to make sure the patient experience is optimal? The care, collaboration, and education I provide? For example, an Medical Assistant who clocks in a few minutes late three times in a quarter receives disciplinary action. However, this has nothing to do with job performance in the sense of functioning in direct patient care or as a medical team member. Another MA could clock-in right on time to the minute everyday but, not be able to take blood pressures correctly (an actual performance function of the job) that affects everyone’s workflow and results in poor patient experience at the visit. Regardless of this gross misdirection of discussing employee performance in the context of disciplinary action, vacation and holiday bids should not be targeted, that feels like maybe “cruel” but, definitely “unusual punishment” that should be avoided. I can understand the argument for loss of the seniority benefit for layoff protection and job/hire bids however, not at such a low level of disciplinary action. If these are going to be implemented, then it needs to be only after escalating to multiple disciplinary levels and maybe even stipulations about what type of behavior was continuing to occur.

T

MAY 29, 2015 AT 3:17 PM

I’ve been at OHSU for almost ten years. In that time I’ve had seven managers, going on eight. Some were good; some were bad. Not that much has changed with me. Some of those approached our operations with a punitive mentality and some were encouraging and over the top helpful.

All in all, I’ve experienced a whirly dervish of a department. The temperament that I’ve experienced when I walk through those doors over the years have been vastly inconsistent.
The takeaway is this: managers come and go. There are plenty of bad ones. There are plenty of good ones. But employees stay loyal. If an employee has seniority and has been slapped with some discipline for who knows what, it’s most likely a clashing of personalities. There’s a due process to get rid of bad apples. However, this proposal reeks of vendettas and bush league managerial tactics.

Honorable Mentions

Philip

MAY 29, 2015 AT 12:05 PM

OHSU has all the tools they need to either motivate underperforming employees to improve or to weed them out. OHSU management doesn’t use them very well. Takes too much effort to manage well. Easier to just cram some automatic arbitrary punishment into the contract and the problem is solved. So next contract will they propose that vacation scheduling be determined by performance? This allegedly is an institution of higher learning. Seems like grade school to me.

fed up

MAY 30, 2015 AT 7:48 AM

I really don’t understand how they think this is ok. It seems like they want to take away all your union rights once you make a mistake. What safe-guards are there to guarantee managers won’t increase the number of written warnings knowing they can shake up things like vacation and holiday staffing? Their proposals are getting more and more frustrating!

Tami, +15 years

MAY 30, 2015 AT 6:10 PM

Well said 151! Can you imagine not having a union? Unpaid sick and vacation, getting fired on a manager’s whim, getting sent home or called in whenever? It can’t be said enough MEMBERS are AFSCME, the bargaining team follows our lead so we individuals need to speak up.

Matt

MAY 29, 2015 AT 6:17 AM

OHSU is heading down the wrong path. It is time for us to say no. If you care for something you don’t sit silent while it makes a big mistake. OHSU is on the cusp of making a number of short sighted decisions. OHSU is starting to lose it way, let’s get it back on track.

5/28 Bargaining Session — OHSU Proposes Drastic Changes to Seniority Rights

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Bargaining today was largely taken up with finalizing several agreements left over from last week’s interest-based bargaining session and introducing proposals on issues that weren’t concluded in IBB. Both teams had a substantial set of proposals that will be considered next week and in the following weeks during traditional bargaining and mediation. We are approaching the end game.

The big development today was OHSU proposing a long list of changes to the application of seniority when coupled with disciplinary actions. Management stated a desire to tie contract rights to an employee’s performance.

In short, OHSU proposes that employees who have had a written reprimand or higher in the last 12 months:

  • They lose the right to exercise seniority for accepting voluntary overtime.
  • They lose the right to be a union steward.
  • They lose the right to exercise seniority to bid on vacation.
  • They lose the right to exercise seniority to bid on holiday time off.
  • They lose the right to job bid.
  • They lose their layoff rights (including initial selection for layoff and displacement rights).

In addition, employees who have had discipline at the third step (final written warning, pay reduction, suspension) in the last twelve months:

  • Lose the right to be placed from the preferential hire list.
  • Lose their next progression increase in pay.

These proposals, in addition to being radical changes to traditional seniority rights, raise a number of questions:

  • Is it hard to receive a written reprimand? Can you imagine needing to take five sick days over the course of three months? Can you imagine making a mistake when entering data? Can you imagine getting really sick and not filing FMLA in time to protect yourself?
  • Could the ability to suspend the contract rights of employees who have active discipline encourage managers to give out more discipline?
  • How many employees could survive being under the microscope if it were to the employer’s advantage to discipline people?
  • Would this change make it more or less likely for an employee to grieve a written reprimand and fight it to the end, rather than work with his/her manager to improve performance?
  • Isn’t this double discipline — giving management two bites at the apple? Isn’t being disciplined punishment enough?
  • Should a pay raise that an employee is counting on be tied to discipline?
  • Managers can already use progressive discipline to fire poor-performing employees — do they also need the power to take employees’ contract rights away before they fire them?
  • Is there an argument to be made for linking higher-level discipline to PHL placement or to things like bumping rights after layoff?
  • Shouldn’t OHSU be thinking of ways to reward good performance instead (instead of, you know, dragging everyone down to average)?

Tell us what you think. The floor is open.

Pay Progression – Members Speak Out!

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We’ve selected the top blog comments from last week. (We’ve removed identifying information.)

The top three comments of each week will receive a prize package from AFSCME Local 328. Keep commenting and see if your comment makes the cut next week!

Top Three

What is OHSU’s “quit rate”? I have watched many people jump from job to job in OHSU or leave OHSU altogether because you will get more money changing positions, even doing the same job, than you will staying in your position.

My job takes one year to learn and two to three years to master, even starting with a strong skill set. The duties are cyclical, following the academic year, and there are many high-level tasks that only happen once a year. I have stayed in my position and become a master, but I certainly haven’t stayed for the money. I cannot imagine it taking 17 years to reach the top of my pay scale, instead of ten. When you already have five years in a job, staying 12 more to max out seems ridiculous, where five is reasonable. There is absolutely no reason to stay that long when you can change jobs and make more money, and having mastered my position I can try to advance to a better job title. That leaves my program spending half the longevity of each person who holds this role training them.

I entered my career believing that you should stay with an employer as long as you can because they will take care of you. Well, I am about to get my ten-year pin and I am not feeling appreciated at all. I am told I make too much — last year my pay rate was adjusted DOWN to make a scale look aligned with a state average, and now I am being told that it will take longer to reach the maximum pay rate, a rate that is LOWER than it is now, to align with another average.

This is not right. This is not good for employees. This does not encourage longevity. This is not something we should meet halfway on; the answer is NO, we will not accept 9.25% over 17 years instead of 12.5% over 10 years.

I don’t know about you, but I’ve never striven to be “average.” I have always wanted to be extraordinary and have been praised by managers for being exceptional. Not average.

  • The certificate that came with my anniversary award is signed by Dr. Joe Robertson. It says “We fervently believe that Oregon Health and Science University is only as strong as the commitment that we receive each and every day from dedicated associates like you.”

Whatever.

OHSU speaks one set of values of its employees and acts with a totally different set of values. Obviously they see us as a tremendously negative financial burden to them. Talent, dedication and commitment to excellence do not seem to be part of their equation. As they continue to cut into our benefits and pay they eventually will end up getting what they seem to be aiming for — mediocrity.

We deserve much better than what OHSU proposes and we should all be ready to hold the line. Let’s support the bargaining team in rejecting OHSU’s shortsighted and self-defeating proposals and help OHSU save them from themselves.

  • As an employee with more than ten years at OHSU, I have to say that I find this proposal demoralizing and somewhat offensive. I am happy in my job and with the management in my work unit, but the overall OHSU management is just greedy and deceitful. They keep making it harder and harder to justify staying here. I sort of think this is the goal. As anyone who has been at OHSU very long knows, there are A LOT of people who work here for decades, and this proposal would deal a huge blow to these people, perhaps even enough to get many of us to leave. Then they can hire a bunch of newbies at a fraction of the cost. Never mind the fact that they are screwing over the people who helped build OHSU over the last decade or two. Do not accept this proposal under any circumstances! It undermines so much of what the union has fought for over the years. This is huge, and we need to fight it!

Honorable Mention

  • I have to say, I was hoping to make OHSU my work-home for the rest of my career, in one form or another.

But with every subsequent bargaining session, I feel less and less valued and more ready to start finding work elsewhere. It’s obvious to me that OHSU doesn’t value its employees as much it does the bottom line. It makes me sad, and angry.

  • Pharmacists at this institution are expected to perform as leaders in excellence, as we should be, but compensated at maybe the middle of the pack? A pack that I believe to be cherry picked for the lower end of average? What are they thinking?

Are managers taking any cuts? Are we looking at whether they need to take pay cuts and retirement benefit decreases? Shoot, do we even look at other institutions number of managers? We are overflowing with them and the leadership of our department is terrible.

Why would they think that decreasing pay and benefits would make us want to work harder? How can this attract new skilled employees in any field, let alone one that is a huge part of the safety of this hospital? How can we be expected to continually increase the amount of work required with fewer resources, and now with less pay?

No chance any of these questions will be honestly answered. I’d strike if it comes down to that.

  • I love my job at OHSU. I do not want to have to imagine myself working for a new employer. Once again we are hearing about “industry standards.” What industry? Where?

Each day I am required to produce excellent high quality work in an ever changing and challenging environment and I feel that I continue to rise to the occasion. I am disappointed to be asked to be compensated at a standard rate and asked to produce excellent work.

This new proposal is laughable. Do not accept this cut in pay!

  • OHSU leaders seem to have spent a lot of time and effort finding complex and misleading ways to state that they want to pay their employees less money. If, at every contract negotiation, OHSU wishes to lessen pay and benefits for employees, I am not sure why anyone would ever wish to do excellent quality work here. Seems like market-standard work would be good enough for OHSU.
  • Proposals like this impact every individual in the department. Our department continues to lose skilled, long-term employees who “max out” of pay increases yet are continually asked to take on more and more responsibilities. The onboarding process at OHSU is steep and requires a lot of time, money AND commitment from the rest of the team to cover work until the new person is able to work independently. A plan that does not incentivize the individuals that are highly skilled, effective and well established in their positions is shortsighted and will cost more money in the end. Patients will notice, co-workers will feel stressed, departments will be less efficient and management will have to commit more time/money to training if we do not, as an institution, value our long-term employees.

I rate my job satisfaction on being challenged by my work, on the people I work for and with and on whether I feel valued by the people I work for and with. This is not just an AFSCME issue; this is an issue for all OHSU.

5/21 Bargaining Session — Unsigned Agreements, Equity & Inclusion, Daily-Overtime Waiver

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Unsigned Tentative Agreements

The teams started out the day discussing concerns about the two tentative agreements reached last week. The first TA in question was regarding Article 6.8.5 – Removal of Materials from Personnel Records. The teams had differing recollections about the restrictions that were placed on the use of disciplinary records older than two years. We will take up this discussion again next week. The second TA in question was regarding Article 18 – Filling of Vacancies. In this case, the concern was about how the TA was worded, not over what the agreement meant. We will work on sorting out the wording during the week and should have a document ready for signature next week.

Equity & Inclusion “Accommodations Package”

The first new issue discussed today was the union’s equity and inclusion “accommodations package” that we initially presented early in bargaining — back on March 12. This package includes a wide range of union initiatives designed to provide for the needs of employees who are not of the dominant culture:

  • Providing on-site translation services for employee needs (e.g., during an investigatory interview or grievance meeting).
  • Translating critical documents, such as safety instructions, OHSU benefits information, the union contract and the OHSU Code of Conduct.
  • Providing prayer space for employees who desire privacy and a safe space to practice their faith.
  • Making gender-neutral restrooms available.
  • Accommodating the needs of employees with religious dietary restrictions (e.g., providing extra microwaves in cafeterias).

During the brainstorming session, a wide variety of potential solutions were presented by both teams. After brainstorming, the management team asked for a caucus, after which they expressed concern about their capacity to address many of the solutions at this time due to cost implications (the option to try to negotiate non-economic solutions today remained on the table). The union team was surprised by this and asked for our own caucus. The union team decided not to split our accommodations package into economic issues and non-economic issues and to bargain them separately instead. We felt that our members’ interests would be better served by submitting a complete package as a proposal (outside of the interest-based bargaining process). We will present this proposal next week.

Waivers of Daily Overtime

The second issue discussed today was one raised by management — the process around the waiver of daily overtime. The management team’s main concern was the frustration that some managers and employees have experienced when a waiver was initially denied by the union and they had to go back to the union for repeated clarification before the waiver was ultimately granted.

The union team’s main concern was that employees could be pressured to sign a daily-overtime waiver when they really didn’t want to, but they submitted the form because either their manager or peers had the expectation that they would. In the end, we reached a tentative agreement that sought to protect employees from being pressured into submitting a waiver when they were new to the job and to remove the barriers to getting a waiver for more senior employees:

  • Employees will be required to get union approval for a waiver of daily overtime when they are in evaluation period (initial probation upon hire or after an internal job change or job bid).
  • Outside of probation or other evaluation period, employees may, with manager approval, waive daily overtime by submitting a completed form to their supervisor and Payroll; the form will also be sent to the union, but union approval is not required.
  • Employees have the right to cancel the daily-overtime waiver at any time by notifying Payroll and their manager.
  • Over the course of the contract, a system for processing the waiver forms electronically will be developed.
  • If the Union believes managers are pressuring employees to sign daily overtime waivers or if management believes the union is unreasonably denying the waivers, upon the request of either party, the union and HR will jointly investigate the concerns.

This was the last week of interest-based bargaining. Next week will be dedicated to discussing the unsigned TAs, wrapping up outstanding non-economic proposals, presenting the union’s accommodations package and gearing up to begin economic bargaining.

Be sure to read and comment about additional timely issues on our blog:

Why Are The Union And OHSU So Far Apart?

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Why did the union make the economic proposals we did? Why are differences in the union’s proposal’s and OHSU’s proposals so vast?

As bargaining currently stands, OHSU and Local 328 have both made initial proposals but have yet to respond to each other’s proposals. We will be responding to each other at the end of May. You may read a detailed description of the union’s proposals on our blog.

Many factors were considered in developing the union’s proposals:

  • OHSU’s excellent financial health and rosy revenue forecast.
  • An economy that is generally improving.
  • Member responses to union surveys
  • The financial impact of the PERS take-backs on employees and OHSU’s stated intent to eliminate the 3% PERS subsidy at the end of the current contract.
  • OHSU’s stated intent to not extend our contract if we are not done bargaining by the end of June.
  • The knowledge that when OHSU needed sacrifice, AFSCME-represented employees sacrificed — even though it felt like that sacrifice wasn’t shared by all at OHSU.
  • The fact that “the market” is an uneven playing field for workers — “the market” is determined by non-unionized employers that don’t have to negotiate with their workers on compensation.
  • The fact that we have a union and a union gives its members power—if the members are willing to exercise it.

The differences in the philosophy — our interests — of OHSU and AFSCME may be summed up quite simply:

  • OHSU believes that in order to be a leading health-care, education and research center, they must attract the best employees. They believe that by implementing a series of take-backs on wages (which is what the PERS take-back was), pay progression and UPP retirement contributions; driving wages closer to market average and alternately incentivizing and punishing the more senior workers to encourage them to leave the work force they can attain a benefit structure (that nice bell curve where there are very few people at the top) that is only slightly above average, but just enough above to attract new, less senior workers.
  • AFSCME also believes that in order for OHSU to be a leading health-care, education and research center, it must attract the best employees. We believe that the way to do that is to maintain our position as a market leader in compensation; provide individual family security through excellent health-insurance and retirement plans; offer meaningful work-life balance by giving employees some control over schedules, overtime, vacations and holidays. OHSU can retain the best employees by not forcing them to work off the clock or through breaks to keep up with increasing workloads, by staffing adequately, by creating an inclusive and welcoming climate (not just for faculty but for everyone in our OHSU community) by providing job security, by preserving our employees’ institutional knowledge and by honoring workers who have given most of their adult lives to this organization.

That’s the difference — the union difference.

17 Years to Get to the Top?

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What do you think about OHSU’s proposal to extend the length of time it takes to get to the top of your pay range from 10 years to 17 years?

What do you think about how OHSU’s proposal will delay by 5 years your ability to claim your longevity increase?

How do you feel about losing the $13,000 OHSU’s proposal will cost you?

They read this blog. They look at the comments.

Tell them. They’d like to know.

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