Local 328 Surveys Its Members
What do members think of Local 328 - the third in a series of five articles
AFSCME’s online poll produced results in four areas
- The perception of OHSU by our members
- The perception of Local 328 by our members
- The attitudes of members toward upcoming contract bargaining
- The best way to communicate with members about bargaining
In our last article we focused on the perception of OHSU by our members and the challenges OHSU faces. Today we will be concentrating on “The perception of Local 328 by our members.”
We have been surveying members’ attitudes about AFSCME Local 328 using a scientific methodology and reputable polling firms for well over a decade.
During that time AFSCME Local 328 has received consistently high approval ratings from members, though there have been fluctuations.
Currently, approval ratings continue to be high, at a level that is about average for the last ten years. Disapproval levels have increased by about 10% over the last five years, with the sharpest uptick occurring right after the last contract bargaining in 2012. This indicates that there are fewer members with moderate opinions. The fact that there are fewer moderate members means that the membership is slightly more polarized than previously.
Currently 73% of members approve of AFSCME and Local 328. The all-time high approval rating was 82% in July of 2012 There is about a 5% margin of error in these polls. But clearly, the last contract negotiation, especially the PERS proposals made by OHSU, took its toll.
The increase in unfavorable ratings for the union is mostly among older men and college graduates. The highest ratings are among self-identified Asian members and women.
Similarly to OHSU, AFSCME’s approval ratings are highest among new employees at 84% but the decline over time is not nearly as sharp or as immediate as the decline in OHSU’s approval ratings. Five year employees show a 75% approval rating and twenty year employees show a 68% approval rating.
“Dr. Joe Robertson” scores 63% and the “OHSU Executive Leadership Team” scores at 42% approval.
The comments members shared were instructive. Even though members were disappointed with the outcome of the last contract, many members understand that the union’s power is related to the visible support of the union membership. Our steward program took a bit of a hit – several people mentioned that stewards (volunteers) didn’t show up for their investigatory meetings. Members had very positive things to say about the quick response to questions and concerns. There were consistent comments from members that understand that even with the disappointing results of our 2012 negotiations relating to PERS, without the Union OHSU would take much greater advantage of them.
What can we learn from all this:
- Members still strongly support their union
- However, confidence in the union was somewhat shaken by the last contract negotiations
- Newer and younger members, Asian members and women show high levels of support.
- Older men and college graduates show somewhat lower levels of support.
- The demographic with the lowest level of union support – older men – still shows 68% approval. That’s 25% higher than the support which members show for the OHSU Leadership Team.
The Union can feel good about the high level of support shown by its members, but there are warning signs which the union must heed to retain that support: Negotiating good contracts is critical. The union took a hit following the last negotiations in 2012.
Member support drops off slightly over time and among our most educated members.
The greatest support comes from new employees who are making up an increasingly large proportion of the bargaining unit. Members show great appreciation for the fundamental principle of being union: “Collective bargaining rights” with over 70% positive.
The union needs to consolidate our high levels of support among new employees, women and ethnic minorities. The union will need to shore up support among older and more educated workers. All of these groups will judge the union on how well it represents their interests in contract bargaining.
The challenge for the union is to balance the need for equity with the need for economic security in a way that is meaningful for all the varied constituencies in Local 328. The Union is also challenged by our members’ belief that the most important ingredient to successful negotiations is a well-trained bargaining team as opposed to the reality that an informed and active membership is critical to a successful outcome.