portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article reporting portland metro

economic justice | health | labor

Parry Center, the striker's demands

A summary of our struggle
Parry Center

Our demands

Our main demands are .45$/hr more for everyone in the bargaining unit, the language of the staff-to-kids ratio law in the contract, and an end to illegal acts on the union, union supporters, and our protected labor rights. Where do these demands come from?

This raise doesn't really track cost of living increases, inflation, or a living wage. Sadly we don't expect that much from such brutal managers. Instead we sought to gain some attempt at meeting inflation, not just because many of us are extremely impoverished, have student loans, etc., but rather because it will keep better trained more experienced people around. To work as a CATS staff (the people who take care of the kids) you must have a college degree and are paid 8.86$/hr-9.25$/hr. Strangely enough Trillium pays workers doing the same jobs at other facilities about 1$ more per hour... because they are non union. The school district pays a lot more for people doing a very similar job with less intense physical contact. This has created a situation where you attract people who are extremely committed to the kids, but eventually get burnt out by the enforced poverty and disrespect from management. They even say in their intro literature that you will get burnt out, they expect you to do so and make zero effort to avoid it. If turnover is high, they can eliminate union activists as they arise from the bad working conditions. The children treated at the Parry Center grew up in situations very close to this, ones of instability. There is a substantial body of research that demonstrates stable staff will improve these children's recovery massively. When faced with these studies at bargaining by a worker, and with the budget surplus, their lawyer said that allocating funds towards these issues are not their priority. Well it is our priority, we can't stand by and watch this politicized abuse by management, their exploiting of the kids for their own ideology. They will say that turnover is lower than the industry standard. They say it is around 19%, which is true if you include everyone working for Trillium, management and people who don't actually do the hard work included. In reality CATS staff have 50% turnover at anyone time.

They also keep staffing levels to the absolute legal minimum. This would be fine except that the nature of the job ensures that people will get sick, break down, and things will happen. Instead of waking managers up or making sure that every slot is filled, management lets numbers fall below the legal limit. This is extremely dangerous as when there are not enough staff to run the place quickly the facility shifts from care to containment. Management is not concerned with this though, they only seek to minimize costs and maximize profits, such as the time a few months back when they illegally overbooked the place with kids and had a child "borrowing" another child's room during the daytime due to lack of beds. Now the normal process for pursuing this is a lengthy and largely ineffective one. By adding this language of the law to the contract we could act quickly to try and resolve disputes and ensure proper staffing for the safety of all. It is bizarre to resist putting the language of the law in a contract... unless you intend to break the law!

Management also selectively targets union activity contrary to the law. They selectively punish members for union activity, literature, etc., while letting non-union activity reign. This is true to the point where people can use the company faxes and materials all on the clock to pursue anti-union activities, while union activity will bring down excessive punishments. One employee was fired for crossing an authoritarian boss on the issue of "taking her legal breaks". They don't give you breaks at the Parry Center. They began to do so following this woman's firing, and associated legal actions, fearing that their years without breaks would be discovered.
No Breaks? 01.Dec.2004 14:34

Tata

Do any Care Givers get breaks? I have been in this field for 5 years and have works for 3 companies. None of these places allow for ANY breaks or meals. Everything we do is with our consumers/clients/people we work with. I have always been told that we just don't get breaks! At one point our managers and other admin. people told us that that we can't even use the restroom while on community outings with consumer/client/people we work with. What's the deal with this? Are there diffrent worker right for those of us in caregiving?

breaks 02.Dec.2004 01:05

z

While there are some exceptions around meal times (if they are provided by the employer and part of your working schedule) your employer is by law obligated to give you breaks. In our industry this is next to impossible as people are directly supervising clients at all times. At the Parry Center it is often hard to get off the unit because things are escalated and staff and kids are in danger. We are not going to walk off the unit while a co-worker or client is in one of these situations. There are also many times at night when overnight employees are left alone. This obviously prevents them from being able to leave the unit even to go to the bathroom. While the employer is required to tell you to take your breaks, they are also supposed to make this a reality. I am sure that Parry Center is not the only residential facility that does not go the extra mile to make sure this happens. It is just another example of the way that our rights are compromised. Just because we are in a caring profession does not mean we have to waive the same rights that other workers get. Not only are breaks the law, but employees can't provide the best care when they are not able to take care of themselves. It is yet another industry trend that needs to change.

"Z" 03.Dec.2004 18:41

Mark

Mr Z:

The night shift, "Can't leave unit to go to the bathroom"!

EXCUSE ME!!! I work the night shift, believe me I use the BATHROOM!

Please stick to the facts . . .

Mark RN
Nightshift

you are not the only night shift worker 04.Dec.2004 00:12

z

I know several people who have been left stranded on their units because they were working alone and could not get in touch with anyone to come relieve them. That is a fact. You work on a unit that is typically staffed with at least three people between the two sides however it is not uncommon to have one staff on each side in the cottage that you don't work in. That is also a fact.

you are not the only 04.Dec.2004 18:45

Mark

Z:

Understand! I have asked to work on "West" when you are short staffed, however I've been told they won't pay a RN to work on your unit.

God knows, I've tried! SCIP gave me the OK, but West won't pay the bucks!

Sorry . .

The Parry Center has worked short staffed at night since 1975. Again, I'm very sorry . . . but this is nothing new!

You know at night, I will do anything to help you out . . . however my hands are tied.

mark