This month we repost an article that appeared in the Wisconsin Rapids City Times about the worker actions for our members fighting for a good contract at Aspirus and we discuss where the leading Democratic candidates for President stand on labor issues. There's a reminder about nominations for delegates to the convention in Las Vegas, and finally, there's a job opening at the Union offices.
Aspirus Workers Question Compassion for People
Workers, Community Demand Accountability from Aspirus
On April 17, workers at Aspirus Riverview Hospital will have sat down at the table with Aspirus executive leaders to present a plan for resolution of problems that have snowballed since Aspirus corporate took over the community’s hospital. What happens in this meeting will affect not only workers at the hospital but families in the surrounding area.
 
Before Aspirus came to north-central Wisconsin, the people in the area relied on Riverview Hospital, a community hospital, for their health care as well as for numerous jobs. For over 40 years Riverview Hospital delivered care by long-term physicians who were committed to the area and to their patients.
 
The workers at the hospital, from front-desk staff to intake personnel to billing, earned wages that allowed them to support their families, buy homes, and purchase health insurance plans at a reasonable cost. The community had a stake in the hospital. It was community oriented, and people felt invested. People liked working there, and members of the community felt safe knowing they would get good care.
 
The Aspirus hospital system had been spreading up the map, acquiring small community hospitals. In 2015 it made its move on Riverview Hospital. A battle began. Fearing what a corporation might do to their community, people overwhelmingly said “no” to the plan to purchase. Aspirus then made threats, saying that if its offer was rejected, it would build a large Aspirus hospital close to Riverview, thus threatening to run the community hospital out of business.
 
Feeling like it had no other choice, the community reluctantly agreed to the purchase, with the condition that there would be a trust fund dedicated to the community and that the hospital would keep “Riverview” in its name. But when the cover slid off the sign at the opening ceremony, the name said only “Aspirus.” As one employee said, “It made us feel like we had been erased.”
 
The arm-twisting purchase and name change were signs of things to come.
 
The most serious, and harmful, change was to employees’ healthcare plan. Aspirus owns the insurance company that provides the health insurance to employees at the hospital. The plan is very expensive, with high deductibles. Aspirus profits off of employees who get sick and have to utilize the Aspirus insurance plan for medical care.
 
One grandmother who has been an employee at the hospital for over 40 years got cancer. She was forced to use her retirement savings to pay for her treatment through Aspirus’s expensive plan. While in treatment she continued to work at the hospital because she financially had too. She is over 60 years of age, has two young grandchildren to help care for, and due to the high cost of Aspirus’s medical plan and continued low wages, now she cannot afford to retire. A hospital with a caring and community-centered philosophy would not have treated her this way.
 
Years of dedicated service have not resulted in a living wage for Aspirus employees. This is particularly true for the hospital front-line staff. These are the first people that you see when walking in through the door. They are the people who greet you, get you registered, help you learn your plan options and advise you; they perform billing tasks and informational intake.
 
These front-line employees are the ones who, on April 17, will be represented in the meeting with Aspirus executive leadership. The employees’ message will be that “positive, incremental changes need to be made.” Initially, they want to see a plan to move their salaries to a “living wage” level. A living wage is considered the bare minimum for being able to support yourself, not even including a family, and is based on the cost of living in an area.
 
This is a call to action for the employees and a call to action for a healthier, more stable community where people can buy homes, frequent local businesses, and enjoy a healthy economy—all because they are paid fairly in proportion to the value that they provide.
 
  “When you have a community-oriented organization, there is a trust that is built between the organization and the people who work and live there” says the business agent and president of OPEIU Local 39 Kathryn Bartlett-Mulvihill, who represents the members currently bargaining a new contract at Aspirus “ When that trust is broken, people lose faith and feel unsure about the future. When they don’t get fair wages, they don’t spend as much at their local shops, they may not be able to afford to buy a house, and they may fear for the security of their jobs. This is when people begin to move away, and the area loses value.”
 
“Many of the workers we’ve talked to have a history here. They were born in this hospital. They’ve said goodbye to dying family members in this hospital. They’ve delivered their babies in this hospital. They have depended on good, safe care from long-standing doctors at this hospital. Now things are not the same. The doctors have little to stay for and move in and out through a revolving door. There is little trust, and it’s creating bad feelings. We need to change all that.”
 
Given that the Aspirus logo states “Passion for Excellence, Compassion for People,” there is hope that Aspirus will listen and honor its own claim beginning with its employees.
Workers not being taken for granted in the 2020 field of Democratic Candidates
The field of candidates vying to be the Democratic Presidential nominee continues to grow. While pundits and papers keep talking "horse race" numbers, it's up to us to look closer at the policies that these candidates are pledging to enact to reverse the terrible direction our country is currently heading.

For years, the Democratic party has expected help from labor but, once in office, has put worker's issues on the back burner (think "card check" in 2009). With labor unions continuing to decrease in numbers and influence, is it any wonder that at a recent CNN town hall meeting, "not a single question was asked about national labor law"? But even if labor issues have taken a back seat to economic ones (though how reporters think the two are separate is a mystery) the major candidates all have strong ties to labor. As that article states:

"With the notable exception of Klobuchar, nearly all of the senators running for president— Gillibrand, Harris, Warren and Booker—co-sponsored Sanders’ 2018 Workplace Democracy Act , which would overhaul existing labor law and make it easier for workers to form and fund their own unions."

This proposed legislation would initiate a huge shift in the power from corporations back towards workers. And while it doesn't repeal the whole of the Taft-Hartley act, it does remove some of the most onerous aspects in an effort to guarantee the right of workers to join unions, which would begin to reduce income inequality and raise wages.

Sen. Bernie Sanders proposed that specific legislation that has garnered so many co-sponsors from among the leading candidates but many of those candidates are staking their own claims to be the friend of labor. Sen Warren announced her candidacy in Lawrence MA, "the site of the 1912 strike by textile workers known as the “Bread and Roses Strike.”" Sen Harris, from California ("one of the last remaining union strongholds in the country") "has hired the former president of the state’s largest and most diverse labor union, SEIU’s Laphonza Butler, to be her senior campaign advisor."

With the major Democratic candidates proposing or backing legislation to help Unions and labor (while the current Republican president is doing everything he can to hurt workers), we can hope that the tide will begin to turn in favor of the working class. But of course, the top of the ticket is only part of the battle for the welfare of our country. Down ticket races, especially in the Senate but also in State and Local races, will be vital. It's time that all candidates talk to issues that affect Labor, and if the pundits don't do the asking, then it is up to us to visit web sites, write letters, and then put our money towards those candidates that will put policies forward that will help the working class.
News Around The Local
Be a Member Delegate!
Do you want to represent your Union in Las Vegas this June 10-14th? Nominations will take place at the May Quarterly Membership Meeting (see below).
CUNA Mutual Group
CUNA Mutual reached out to the Union and asked us to partner with them for Earth Day. This week CUNA Mutual Group and OPEIU Local 39 shared the purchase of reusable grocery bags. Please look for the EARTH DAY signs for more details. The bags will be handed out Wednesday, April 24 in 5810 IC-1 on a first come first served basis. We’d like each and every one of our members to receive a bag.
OPEIU Local 39 is Hiring!
Entry-level Organizer
OPEIU Local 39 is hiring! OPEIU is growing and we are hiring an Apprentice Organizer to be based in Madison, WI with travel throughout the state. Competitive salary and benefits commensurate with experience.

PS - Membership Meeting
in May
The Union succeeds through everyone's efforts. Please join us at the Union offices Wednesday, May 20th at 5:30PM.

Agenda will include Nominations for Member Delegate to the OPEIU International Convention in June in Las Vegas.
Unions = Gym Membership
Upcoming Membership Meetings
Membership meetings are held the third Wednesday of the second month of the quarter, at 5:30PM at the Union Office.

May 15, 2019
August 21, 2019
November 20, 2019
February 19, 2020

This is your Union. Your participation gives us the strength to face the continued opposition of both politicians and companies.
Know Your Weingarten Rights!
The US Supreme Court has ruled that the National Labor Relations Act gives workers the right to request union representation during investigatory interviews by supervisors, security personal, and other managerial staff. These are called Weingarten Rights.

An investigatory interview occurs if 1) management questions you to obtain information; and 2) you have reasonable apprehension that your answers could be used as a basis for discipline or other adverse action.

You must ask for union representation either before or during an investigatory interview. Management does not have to remind you of this right. If your request is refused and Management continues asking questions, you may refuse to answer. Your employer is guilty of an unfair labor practice and charges may be filed. If you are questioned in a situation where Weingarten may apply, read or present this statement:

"If this discussion could in any way lead to my being disciplined or terminated, or affect my personal working conditions, I respectfully request that my union representative, officer, or steward be present at this meeting. Until my representative arrives, I choose not to participate in this discussion."
If you have any news you would like to share with other Members, please let us know! You can contact us via email or our Facebook page.