Violating Rights

Eugene’s AFSCME union filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the city of Eugene

After months of alleged mistreatment and violations by city supervisors, the local AFSCME union has filed an unfair labor practice complaint against Eugene with Oregon’s Labor Relations Board. 

The complaint accuses the city facility management supervisor, Bo Hart, of disregarding union rules by denying members’ rights to representation, retaliation for the union filing grievances, persuasion of employees to reject the union and threatening employees.

Meanwhile, union workers are continuing to work in a hostile environment, as the supervisor being investigated hasn’t been put on administrative leave, alleges local AFSCME president Cindy Koehler.

“The workers don’t feel safe and they don’t feel supported,” she says. Koehler worked with the union workers in filing the Unfair Labor Practice complaint. 

The ongoing issues began in March, when supervisor Joe Stevens met with a union worker to discuss his work performance. The worker requested a representative from the union to be present in the meeting, as listed in the Weingarten rights, which give union workers the right to union representation during an investigatory interview, but the worker’s request was denied. The next day, the worker was placed on administrative leave.

After multiple meetings and conversations with the supervisors in Public Works, Koehler says, the city’s behavior continued and expanded to other union members’ being isolated or treated unfairly. The union decided to file the unfair labor practice complaint. 

“We haven’t seen a satisfactory remedy for the behavior,” says union chief steward Dal Ollek. 

In the past, Koehler says, the city has responded promptly and taken action when a complaint or Weingarten violation arises. Most often, these violations occur with newer supervisors, but Hart has been around for almost five years now, Koehler says.

“I’ve been with the city for 21 years plus, and I don’t know if we have ever filed an unfair labor practice like this before,” she says. “Usually the city is responsive to our concerns.”

Another concern for union members is safety. Ollek gave an example of maintenance workers cleaning up the streets. Because downtown can often be unsafe, standard practice is for people to work in pairs. Their supervisors won’t let them, Ollek says, insisting they work alone.

“It’s a recommendation by the police department,” Koehler says. “Why wouldn’t they be permitted to do it?”

“If you go to the Parks Department,” Ollek adds, “they are always in pairs.” 

AFSCME has a list of remedies for solving these ongoing issues. These solutions include the city’s acknowledging the mistreatment of employees, sending an email to AFSCME members regarding the violations, having the city pay AFSCME attorney fees and a civil penalty.

The city manager’s office declined to discuss the complaint. “I can confirm that the city has received the complaint and will be following the process to respond,” Community Relations Director Laura Hammond wrote to Eugene Weekly in an email.

The facility management division did not respond to request for comment. 

“HR usually acknowledges and recognizes the rights and it’s communicated with the supervisors and resolved,” Koehler says. “In this case, it’s very strange.”