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Union protests discrimination of University Health Center employees



About 20 SEIU members marched in front of the University Health Center Thursday afternoon. They carried signs calling for a change in the treatment of health center employees, a battle that has taken place for years and was aired publicly in a letter earlier this week.

Louie Vidmar and other union members are concerned for employees and students at UO (Phillip Quinn/Emerald)

“We are standing up for the rights of nurses who have been facing discrimination — racism, sexism, ageism and bully boss situations,” Louie Vidmar, a local area contact for SEIU said. “People have a right to work in a dignified environment and be respected in the workplace.”

In a recent survey distributed to health center employees, over half of the employees who responded said they didn’t think supervisors apply rules and policies “fairly and consistently.”

One anonymous comment from the survey, which the Emerald obtained a copy of, read that, “management has ignored reports of harassment, sexual harassment and stalking, and has refused to act to provide a safe work environment.”

Vidmar said that there have been “several steward cases from this worksite,” referring to the health center.

Stewards are members of the union responsible for enforcing contracts, reading contract language and ensuring that it is being adhered to.

John Taylor, a chief steward said that these issues have been going on for years and in the last year but the conversations haven’t gained any traction.

“We’ve been met with a more or less dismissive attitude so we decided to was time for direct action,” he said.

While SEIU represents university and public employees, they are concerned for the impact these practices are having on students.

“This is something that affects the entire university,” Taylor said, “especially the student populous who rely on a functional medical center to have adequate health care.”

Union members hope that their vocalizing will draw greater attention to the issue and result in actions by the university.

“This situation is optional, it’s something we can change,” Taylor said. “If we stand up and let our voices be heard we have the power to make this university live up to the standards of inclusiveness and diversity it claims to stand for.”

The Emerald reached out to the health center for comment on the claims made by the union.

“The university takes very seriously claims of discrimination and leadership in the health center and student services are committed to ensuring that all UHC employees have a healthy work atmosphere free of discrimination,” the health center said in an email through a university spokesperson. “While we cannot comment on individual personnel matters, we have robust procedures in place relating to reporting, investigating and remedying claims of discrimination to ensure that our employees are protected from discrimination.”

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Max Thornberry

Max Thornberry

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