Overview of AFSCME Local 328/OHSU Tentative Agreement

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AFSCME Local 328 and OHSU tentatively agreed to a contract on Thurs., June 25, at approximately 11:00 p.m. after a two-day stretch of mediating for 28½ of the previous 37 hours. The agreement marks the culmination of four months of bargaining during which the parties met every week and opened and came to agreement on dozens of issues, both economic and non-economic.

Next week we will distribute a complete analysis of every issue. For now, we want to present the major issues that we know our represented employees are most interested in. We want to emphasize that among the issues you will read about next week (but that are not included in this update) are many that represent significant gains for our members.

We will hold the ratification vote online during the week of July 6 — exact times and instructions for participation will be posted online, as well as emailed to members, next week. You must be a dues-paying member in order to participate in the ratification vote. If you are currently a fair-share-fee payer, you may join the union in order to vote — we will present instructions next week on how to do that as well.

In addition to the distribution of written materials containing explanations of the complete agreement and all contract changes, the union will also hold worksite meetings during the week of July 6; at least one of these meetings will be live-streamed and archived for later viewing. We will announce times and locations next week for those who want to attend and ask questions about the contract.

Now for the highlights of the agreement —

Four-Year Agreement: The parties have agreed to a four-year contract.

Across-the-Board Wage Increases: OHSU’s original response to our wage proposal was for a four year agreement with wage increases totaling 4.75% (1.25%, 1.25%, 1% and 1.25%) over the life of the contract. Our settlement is for a four-year agreement with wage increases totaling 10% over the course of the contract:

  • Year 1: 3%
  • Year 2: 2.25%
  • Year 3: 2.25%
  • Year 4: 2.5%

The union insisted on 3% the first year so that PERS employees who currently receive the subsidy will not see a decrease in pay as a result of the subsidy ending on June 30.

Pay Progression: This was OHSU’s proposal to stretch the time needed to reach the top pay step out to 17 years. This, in the bargaining team’s opinion, was the single most important proposal to OHSU and represented the single most difficult issue for our bargaining team to come to grips with. It was a focus of our strike poll. Our members told us that a strike was a serious possibility if OHSU refused to compromise on this, but that most could live with a reasonable compromise. It was one of the last issues we moved on, and only at the eleventh hour in mediation did it become obvious that no settlement was possible unless the union made some movement. We ended up with a 13-year pay progression—less than half of what OHSU would have imposed without a union to bargain with. This movement opened the door to a settlement that contains many gains for our members in other areas.

Market-Based Wage Adjustments: This was a key area for the union and one where we believe we made major gains for members, although not many will see the day-to-day impact of these changes. The market-based wage committee adjusts salary ranges up or down to keep pace with the market. The current practice is to compare the middle of an OHSU pay range to the midpoint of a market pay range for a comparable occupation; if the OHSU pay is found to be above or below the market, a pay range increase or reduction can occur based on criteria set forth in a letter of agreement.

  • The union negotiated a change in the criteria that trigger a pay-range adjustment, so that no downward adjustment can occur unless pay for an OHSU classification has been more than 10% above market for two consecutive years.
  • In addition, we negotiated language that makes an upward adjustment easier than before — now an upward range movement is triggered when pay for an OHSU classification is below market by 5% for two consecutive years
  • Finally, we negotiated an agreement that when a downward adjustment does occur, any employee paid above the new pay range is “redlined” (held at their current rate of pay) rather than moved down to the top step in the new, lower range.
  • All look-back periods will be reset at the start of this agreement, which means that no downward adjustments of any kind can occur for at least two years.
  • This is a major victory on an issue that was a centerpiece of our contract campaign.

UPP Changes: Our strike poll showed that members did not strongly oppose this employer proposal provided the union could make some modifications. We were able to gain some important benefits for our members from this.

  • Pay-Range “Push”: Upon plan implementation, all pay ranges will move up 5% at the bottom of the range and up 6% at the top of the range. (OHSU’s original proposal was for the top of the range to move 5%.) This means that all employees within 5% of the bottom of the range will see an immediate increase in pay in addition to the across-the board increases also occurring that year. Only people within the bottom 5% of the range will get an immediate increase, but those paid above the bottom 5% the range will have an extra 6% of wage growth available to them. PERS employees will be able to use this wage growth to project higher average salaries toward retirement. Employees at the top step or the longevity step will have an extra 6% to grow their wages, and any time spent at top step counting toward their longevity increase before this range movement will be kept on the books and credited to them.
  • UPP Pay Conversion: Upon plan implementation, UPP employees will receive a 6% pay increase in addition to any other contractual pay increases; the 6% retirement contribution pickup will cease. UPP employees will be able to immediately put the 6% pay increase into a tax-protected retirement plan and still have the full retirement contribution, but it will now be based on a higher average salary. We bargained that OHSU will provide financial counseling to employees upon request, so that the benefits of moving the pay increase into retirement are understood; the union strongly recommends that employees take advantage of this. UPP employees who put the 6% pay increase into a tax-free retirement account will see no reduction in retirement benefits and no reduction in take-home pay.
  • Plan Implementation Date: The UPP package will be implemented in January 2016. After the PERS contribution changes, OHSU had promised to not make changes to UPP for five years and was prepared to honor that promise. However, this plan provides an opportunity for employees to start moving higher on the wage scale and putting more money into retirement because of the range push upward, so the union was agreeable to an earlier start date because of the advantages to employees created by the higher pay ranges.

Shift Differentials: OHSU had proposed major reductions in shift differential pay. The union was able to fight off the majority of these take-back proposals.

$15.00 Minimum Wage: This is a major gain for our low-wage workers — one that was, with all due credit, initiated by OHSU as part of their economic proposals. The union was glad to agree to this proposal.

  • Following all contractually agreed pay adjustments as of the first full pay period following contract ratification, the base pay rate of any employee making less than $12.75/hour will be increased to $12.75.
  • In July 2016, any employee make less than $13.75/hour will see their pay increased to $13.75.
  • In July 2017, any employee making less than $15.00/hour will be increased to $15.00.
  • In addition, under the market-based pay agreement, any pay range for which the midpoint is $15.00/hour or less will be protected against downward adjustment for the life of the contract.

Salaried Compensation & Vacation: The union successfully resolved our salaried members’ two biggest priorities.

  • Guaranteed annual pay increases of a minimum of 1.5%
  • Increased vacation accruals:
    • 1-5 years: increased by 3 days
    • 5-15 years: increased by 2 days
    • Over 15 years: increased by 1 day

Pharmacy: OHSU initially came after Pharmacy differentials in a big way, proposing to eliminate their weekend and night-shift differentials completely. This was the one group of members who really stood up for themselves and each other—circulating petitions, holding major one-on-one discussions about bargaining and showing up with a huge turnout at one of our bargaining sessions.

As a result, management completely withdrew their proposed take-backs on weekend and night differentials for pharmacy techs and significantly reduced their proposed take-backs on night differentials for pharmacists. The night-shift differential for pharmacists will be reduced from 20.5% to 18.5% on July 1 and to 16.5% in July 2016, with no further reductions for the life of the contract. The union did not succeed in increasing compensation for salaried pharmacists who work extra shifts.

Pharmacists will also benefit from new guaranteed annual increases for salaried personnel and increased salaried vacation accruals.

Health-Insurance Security:  While the union was not able to prevail with its proposed increases in the employer health-insurance contributions, a four-year contract ensures that members will have longer-term health-insurance security.

Seniority/Performance: This was another major issue for OHSU. If you recall, OHSU originally proposed linking the suspension of a wide variety of seniority-based benefits to written reprimands. This was an issue that pretty much set our hair on fire as union activists and staff. However, we heard from a lot of members who felt differently and felt that the union shouldn’t be overly protective of poorly performing employees. This is one of those areas where the union would have preferred to make no changes, but just as we had areas where we could not walk away without changes, so did OHSU, and all bargaining entails compromise.

What we ultimately agreed to was NO linkage to written reprimands, but once an employee reaches the third step of discipline (immediately prior to termination), temporary suspension of some seniority-based privileges could be included in a final written warning. The items that managers may (or not, at their discretion) include in a final written warning are: vacation/holiday bidding, voluntary-overtime bidding and job bidding—managers can revoke up to two of these for up to one year. All of this remains subject to the grievance procedure if an employee feels that s/he was not disciplined for just cause.

Holiday Pay for Relief Employees:  Earlier in bargaining, the union agreed to additional requirements for relief employees’ availability, with the intent to later negotiate for a holiday-pay benefit for relief employees. Finally, late in mediation, OHSU agreed that any relief employee working a shift on a holiday will receive four additional hours of straight-time pay.

Contracting-Out Severance Expansion: The contractual definition of contracting out has been broadened to include displacements due to mergers and acquisitions, making more employees eligible for this important benefit.

Voluntary Retirement Incentive:  Later this year, many employees will be eligible for a voluntary retirement incentive worth up to $20,000. The details of eligibility and the various options available to employees will be spelled out in our comprehensive review of the agreement coming out next week. The program is strictly voluntary.

Equity and Inclusion: The union proposed a series of initiatives to promote inclusion within the OHSU community and equitable treatment of our members, as well as addressing workload and diversity issues.

  • Community Employment Initiative: Within six months of contract ratification, AFSCME and OHSU will establish a community-employment committee to work on recruitment and retention of underrepresented and ethnic minorities at OHSU, with the purpose of evaluating employment and career-development needs.
  • Translation Services: Upon request, OHSU will provide on-site translation services for employee needs (e.g., during an investigatory interview or grievance meeting). In addition, OHSU will translate into five languages and make available a one-page document explaining HR information (e.g., benefits and retirement), how to access the union, AAEO services and other key information.
  • Prayer Space: OHSU will provide locations to employees who desire privacy and a safe space to practice their faith and post the locations of safe prayer spaces on O2.
  • Gender-Neutral Restrooms: If an employee has concerns about accessing gender-neutral restrooms, or if a single-occupancy gender-neutral restroom is unavailable, they can contact their manager/HR business partner for assistance in designating a multi-occupancy restroom as a safe space. Additionally $3,000 has been set aside for additional signage to identify certain multi-occupancy restrooms as safe spaces.
  • Meat-/Dairy-Free Microwave Ovens: A dedicated microwave will be added to the third-floor cafeteria to accommodate the needs of employees with religious dietary restrictions.
  • Basic Computer Training: OHSU will provide basic computer training, on paid time, for all employees who cannot demonstrate basic computer proficiency.
  • Multilingual Safety Training: OHSU will continue its efforts to make safety training/information understandable for all employees, including those not fluent in English.
  • Non-Occupational Illness & Injury Accommodation: For employees who have suffered a non-work-related injury, OHSU has agreed to train HR business partners on ways to return these employees to work with temporary work modifications.
  • Seniority Restoration Following Extended Medical Leave: Employees who have been out on extended medical leave will retain their seniority if they return to OHSU.
  • Telecommuting Task Force: AFSCME and OHSU have agreed to create a telecommuting task force to take a serious look at how to expand employees’ ability to work from home. The task force will report to OHSU’s CFO, who will serve as the executive sponsor for the task force.

This is a summary of the major points of our agreement. There are many more points, most of which provide additional benefits to our members. We will provide a complete review of all agreements next week.

Overall, this was an excellent bargaining session with historically good outcomes in many areas, despite compromises in some others.

Thank you all for your support during bargaining!

Settlement

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AFSCME Local 328 and OHSU have reached a tentative agreement on the 2015 – 2019 collective-bargaining agreement. The agreement includes significant gains for bargaining-unit members. We will be meeting with OHSU to sign the tentative agreements on Friday. We know that you all are intensely curious about the details of the settlement. Be assured that we will have a full report on all major issues out to members before close of business Friday. Thank you for your support!

Preparing for a Strike

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There are two phases of strike preparation: the preparation of individual members to go on strike and the preparations the local union must make in order to coordinate and sustain a strike. For the time being, we will present this information in the form of checklists for easy review. As we get closer to a strike vote (if one is necessary), we will present more detailed information. Be sure to read our Strike FAQ article as well.

The main things to take away from this is that you will need to prepare economically to weather a strike as individuals and for your families, and you will need to consider what you can offer in terms of volunteer support to coordinate and maintain a strike and an effective picket presence. There will be lots of opportunities to help, both on the front lines and behind the scenes.

Things members need to do before going on strike — starting now

  • Health Care: Get routine medical visits/wellness checks out of the way for you and your family. If you anticipate needing these dental/vision appointments/services, get them taken care of now.
  • Mortgage/Rent: Talk to your bank or credit union and negotiate a plan for the possible duration of a strike before your next payment is due. Banks and credit-card companies will work with you if you plan ahead.
  • Taxes: If you have property taxes due, ask if an accommodation can be arranged to defer them for a while.
  • Utilities: Request to spread out your payments.
  • Insurance: Investigate ways to spread out your premiums.
  • Child Support: Contact your ex-spouse and try to work something out (but do work something out — don’t just stop paying).
  • Purchases:
    • Only buy necessities — save your money.
    • Hold off on purchasing any optional luxury items or taking on any new monthly payments until after the contract is settled.
    • Stock up on non-perishable food. If you have a freezer, start filling it.
    • Making credit-card purchases while on strike is not recommended; if you must, use a line of credit with lower interest. Make the minimum payment if necessary.

Things the union must do before and during a strike

Green tasks require member volunteers; all others would primarily be the responsibility of paid Local 328 staff, elected Local leaders and supporters from Oregon AFSCME and other unions.

  • Find a strike headquarters.
  • Organize strike, picketing and finance committees.
  • Recruit and train picket captains.
  • Hold a pre-strike briefing conference with picket captains, stewards and all committee members.
  • Prepare picket signs and slogans.
  • Decide where to picket, the hours of picketing and the number of pickets required.
  • Develop guidelines for picket-line operations.
  • Decide how much of the union’s funds need to be set aside for strike-related expenses.
  • Negotiate a strike protocol with OHSU and the police.
  • Decide how to respond to members who cross the picket line.
  • Arrange with other labor groups to join and support the picket line.
  • Arrange accommodations for the physical needs of picketers (portable bathroom facilities, food, water, warmth, lots of coffee).
  • Consider alternative picket duties, such as childcare, webmaster, phone coordinator.
  • Set up a communications system with picket captains and the members.
  • Have union counselors available to assist strikers facing emotional and financial problems.

Strike FAQ

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If you still have questions after reading the following FAQ, ask them in the comments section below, so that everyone may see the answers. The Local 328 bargaining team is in mediation with OHSU on June 24 and 25 this week. Be sure to read our Preparing for a Strike article as well.

Q: Why are we voting to strike?

A: We’re not, yet. The Union must go through a legally mandated series of steps before a strike vote can be taken. You may read about those steps in a previous blog post. Right now, we are still at the mediation stage in bargaining. The only reason we would consider striking is if we could not come to agreement on the issues our members have told us they would strike over — that’s why the recent strike poll was so important. (For strategic reasons we are not making the results of that poll public at this time.) The larger question of why we would vote to strike is that, at the end of the day, unions get their power from the members’ willingness to withhold their labor — not from staff or lawyers or labor law.

Q: When will the strike vote be?

A: We’ll let our members know well in advance of a vote. At the stage of bargaining we are in now, it’s difficult to project exactly when a strike vote might occur. If we don’t come to agreement, it would be reasonable to anticipate a strike vote to happen sometime in the next two to six weeks.

Q: How long would we need to be on strike?

A: There really is no way to predict this. What we can say is that the more effective the strike is — the more employees who go out and stay out — the greater the pressure put on the employer to settle. Folks should not think that a two- or three-day strike or some symbolic gesture would move the employer once things have gotten to this point. Think weeks, not days.

Q: Why can’t we just reject OHSU’s offer and go back to bargaining?

A: Rejecting OHSU’s offer but refusing to strike would send the employer a message that they do not have to change their proposals — they could just wait out the legally mandated timelines and IMPOSE their final offer. We promise that our members won’t like their final offer.

Q: If we vote to strike, do I have to strike?

A: We consider every member of the bargaining unit — dues payers and fair-share-fee payers — morally obligated to support a strike. The whole point of a union is to act together in the interest of improving working conditions for EVERYONE. However, the union will not threaten or try to intimidate people — that’s not what we are about. However, if the bargaining unit does go on strike and you refuse to participate, don’t be surprised if/when your peers judge you for your actions that undermine the strike and threaten everyone’s chances to get a good deal and take care of their families.

Q: Will I be fired or lose my job if I strike?

A: No — striking is a legally protected activity if the strike is entered into lawfully by the union.

Q: Can I be permanently replaced?

A: Every strike ends with a return-to-work agreement in which the right of employees to their jobs is spelled out.

Q: What happens to my health-care coverage if I go out on strike?

A: OHSU is pay-as-you-go, which means that if you work even one day in a month you have health-care coverage for the whole month. We would time our strike notice to be at the beginning of the month so that members would be guaranteed a month of health-care coverage while on strike.

Q: When would a strike begin?

A: It’s really too soon to say with any certainty. A fair estimate would be no sooner than August, no later than October.

Q: Can I still take my  already scheduled vacation if we go on strike?

A: Probably not. OHSU would most likely declare an emergency and cancel vacations. We would grieve it, but by the time the grievance process ran its course, the strike would be over. If the employer cancels your vacation and orders you to work, you have the legal right to inform them that you are on strike and will not be returning to work until the strike is settled, but you won’t get to use your vacation time.

Q: Can trial-service employees be fired if they go on strike?

A: No — they are legally protected just as regular employees are.

Q: Can I work somewhere else during the strike?

A: Yes — in fact, this is a great strategy for weathering a strike. Even a part-time, low-wage job during this period could make a big difference for many families.

Q: Do I have to tell my boss that I am going out on strike?

A: No. S/he will figure it out when you don’t show up.

Q: What about paychecks?

A: OHSU will have to issue paychecks during the strike for money you earned prior to the strike. This is controlled by state law — earned wages may not be withheld.

Q: Who can strike?

A: Everyone in the bargaining unit can strike. Whether you are a dues-paying member or a fair-share-fee payer, you are protected.

Q: Can I be retaliated against for striking?

A: No. It is against state law for employers to retaliate against members for taking part in lawful union activities.

Q: Can we be locked out?

A: Legally, yes, but lockouts are almost unheard of in public-sector bargaining. There may have been some, but we are unaware of any.

Q: How long will we strike?

A: Until we reach an agreement with the employer. The ONA strike at OHSU lasted more than 50 days.

Q: How will we know when the strike is over?

A: The union will announce it via email and through press releases. You can be sure that if OHSU employees are striking, the news media will be covering it as well. In addition, the union will post regular updates on our blog, website and Facebook page, and we will announce a phone information line that people may call to hear recorded messages about the strike.

Q: Does the union have a strike fund or hardship fund?

A: The union has a contract-defense fund that is used for bargaining expenses, legal fees for grievance arbitrations, lost-time employees to help with organizing during bargaining and other bargaining-support costs such as printing and postage. Members pay $2.00/month of their dues into this fund — about $75.00 per member over the term of the contract. Even if we didn’t have to pay for other bargaining expenses, there clearly is not enough money in the CDF to subsidize wages.

Q: Can I work from home during a strike?

A: If you work from home for OHSU during the strike, you would be considered a strikebreaker. We consider all members of the bargaining unit morally obligated to honor the strike and would expect them to not work for OHSU as long as a strike is ongoing.

Q: Will the boss threaten me?

A: Report it if s/he does—it’s against the law and the union will file an unfair-labor-practice complaint with the state.

Q: Will I lose my seniority?

A: No.

Q: What will happen if OHSU cancels my medical insurance?

A: Your insurance cannot be canceled if you work at least one day in the month. 

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.

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