Q & A: Union Organizing Process & AFSCME


OHSU House Officers Union's mission is to advocate for residents and fellow physicians as we provide safe, high-quality care to patients throughout Oregon. Our union insists that OHSU invests in its house staff in ways that materially improve our livelihood, our health, and our ability to provide excellent patient care.

WHat we stand for

Being a union employee means having a real voice at the decision-making table at OHSU. We are part of the conversation about our wages, benefits, hours, workplace safety, time off, and work-life balance.

  • A true voice: We need an equal seat at the decision-making table to elevate our perspectives and leverage our expertise and passion as frontline healthcare professionals. Forming a union has given us a say in the decisions that matter most to us.
  • Improve patient care: We advocate for changes that will improve the care delivered at OHSU. Many departments depend on residents’ services. We strive for increased patient safety through adequate coverage for resident personal, sick, or wellness leave.
  • Benefits: Our first contract led to tangible improvements to benefits such as:
    • A housing stipend
    • Reimbursement for licensing and boards testing
    • An educational material reimbursement
    • A relcotation stipend.
  • Recruitment: Competitive applicants are looking for the benefits in morale, compensation and leadership that come from a clear, independent advocate and a strong bargaining position.

How is Oregon AFSCME structured and where do we fit in?

  • Oregon AFSCME represents over 27,000 members and is part of AFSCME International, with 1.7 million members.

  • Our resident union operates within AFSCME but is independent from other chapters, with separate contract negotiations highly specific to our needs.

  • We are one of about 180 local unions with separate governance within Oregon AFSCME (for example, AFSCME local 328 represents 7000 members at OHSU, while Graduate Researchers United is the AFSCME local for graduate students).

  • Oregon AFSCME is run by an executive committee and board elected from locals across the state. 

  • AFSCME Oregon provides resources to its locals - lawyers, organizers, and negotiation experts. 

Why Did we choose to join AFSCME?

  • We can leverage and learn from AFSCME’s copious experience at OHSU.

  • We are part of a huge network of OHSU employees. There is strength and protection in numbers.

  • AFSCME provides us with specific resources, such as lawyers, organizers on the ground, and negotiators with experience working with physicians and with OHSU. We are strapped for time and have limited experience in these areas; we’re calling in our AFSCME consult!

  • AFSCME has experience working with physicians, representing doctors at the Oregon State Hospital, Lane County, Multnomah County, Virginia Garcia, and Outside In. 

  • Working with AFSCME does not preclude collaboration with other resident unions nationwide; in fact, AFSCME encourages collaboration and solidarity with our peers

  • AFSCME Oregon believes in workers rights and understands that house officers are particularly vulnerable workers in our healthcare system.

  • AFSCME currently represents over 7,300 employees at OHSU (as above) and the larger the organization, the stronger our collective bargaining power.

How is our union organized?

  • We have our own local with elected house staff leaders

  • We have our own by-laws and constitution.

  • We have our own contract and are bound only by our contract.

  • If collective action is required by other members of AFSCME Oregon (i.e. pharmacists, graduate students), we are not required to participate

What is collective bargaining?

  • Collective bargaining is the process of negotiation between employees and their employer over wages, work conditions, benefits and other issues involving compensation and rights.

  • A committee of House Officers — chosen by us — sits down and hammers out an agreement known as a "union contract" on every issue of concern to our bargaining unit. The committee sits at the bargaining table as equals with management.

  • The majority of members House Officers must approve the agreement before it can become accepted as a contract (this is the vote/ratification).

  • Collective bargaining is not the only power wehave  as a union, we can work on issues and initiatives as they come up. Recently our union has been working for improvements to parking/transportation and protecting our ability to users pagers.

How do we handle conflicts between members and OHSU?

  • In the contract, we outline a grievance procedure to follow if we believe the contract has been violated.  We can also take a case to arbitration if necessary. 

What could our capacity be for state or national change? How are political endorsements made?  Are we bound by these?

  • If we choose to, the House Officers union can have a political committee and endorsement process for local, State, and National politics when it comes to legislation, ballot measures, and political candidates.  The committee can then recommend voting for the legislation, ballot measures, and political candidates the organization endorses but any member can vote any way they want in a political election. 

  • In addition, Oregon AFSCME also has a political caucus that goes through the same process where members of the House Staff union can participate as well.  

  • Oregon AFSCME sponsors lobby days at the Capitol, drafts and lobbies for legislation and ballot measures that impact members. We can also work with our National Union on federal policies.  

  • All of these opportunities are volunteer-based. 

House Officers are Stronger Together