Murmurs: City Council Candidate Pans Union’s Use of Pro-Gaza Slogan

In other news: OHSU details layoffs.

A 2023 march for Gaza. (Allison Barr)

CITY COUNCIL CANDIDATE PANS UNION’S USE OF PRO-GAZA SLOGAN: A city candidate endorsed by the Portland Association of Teachers asked the union to stop using the phrase “From the river to the sea” at its events—but neither he nor the union will say what came of the ensuing discussions. Days after receiving the union’s endorsement, Jesse Cornett, a District 3 candidate for Portland City Council, asked PAT to stop using the phrase, which refers to Palestinian liberation and is interpreted by some as calling for the extermination of Jews. In an email to supporters on Monday, he called on PAT president Angela Bonilla to prohibit its use in official union settings after teachers at a union event passed out shirts emblazoned with the slogan. “But by simply using the phrase, they are causing fear amongst students, parents, colleagues, neighbors and community members,” Cornett wrote. “It has to stop.” He also criticized the union’s publication of controversial pro-Palestine materials on its website. But Cornett is keeping the union’s endorsement, saying he believes “those using the hateful phrase are a teeny fraction of the membership.” He says Bonilla responded to his email, but he declined to share what she said: “I feel strongly that I should not.” Bonilla didn’t respond to WW’s requests for comment.

OHSU DETAILS LAYOFFS: Oregon Health & Science University says it plans to eliminate 516 full-time positions as it tries to balance its budget in the face of rising costs for labor and supplies. OHSU disclosed the exact number of expected job cuts in a presentation to be given at a finance and audit committee meeting scheduled for June 21. Included in that number are 143 vacancies that won’t be filled, leaving 373 reductions. Because some of those positions are filled by more than one part-time worker, the layoffs will affect 410 employees. The bulk of the cuts in positions that are filled—180—will be made in health care. As a percentage of jobs cut, staff in communications and marketing will take the biggest hit. Fifteen positions will be eliminated and three vacant ones won’t be filled, the presentation says, accounting for 28% of the 65 positions in those areas. In terms of pay levels, workers at OHSU making $50,000 to $75,000 account for close to 125 of the cuts, while staff making over $200,000 will lose fewer than 25, a chart in the presentation shows. OHSU said it lost $64 million in the first 11 months of the fiscal year that ends June 30, even after a one-time gain of $44 million from a national settlement with Medicare. After the presentation to the finance and audit committee, the full board will consider the budget, and the cuts, on June 28.

RICH SEND-OFF FOR OHSU PEOPLE OFFICER: Qiana Williams, the former chief people officer who parted ways with Oregon Health & Science University on June 3 after 19 months on the job, will continue to collect her $550,000 salary until June 2025 unless she accepts another position, according to a copy of her separation agreement. OHSU will pay its share of her COBRA health premiums until then, too. She also gets a one-time payment of $75,000. Williams resigned from the academic medical center after a series of her actions vexed employees. Williams told a group of workers last month that “a culture of complaint is pervasive at OHSU,” according to a recording of her comments obtained by WW. Before that, Williams hired much of her senior staff from Ohio, irking workers who wondered why she overlooked talent in Oregon. A lawyer looking into the case of Daniel Marks, the OHSU doctor who allegedly took surreptitious pictures of women in class, also determined that Williams likely didn’t meet with another university executive to discuss the Marks case, as she said she had. Regarding her departure, Williams has told OHSU that she has “potential claims” against the institution, the separation agreement says. The agreement was first reported by the Portland Business Journal.

PROVIDENCE NURSES GO ON STRIKE: Three thousand Providence nurses walked off the job Tuesday, after months of failed contract negotiations with the health care behemoth. The strike affects six hospitals, including the Oregon network’s largest, Providence St. Vincent Medical Center. Providence says the hospitals will remain open with replacement staff, although, if past strikes are any indication, at least some patients will likely be diverted to other facilities. The fight over pay raises and working conditions between Providence and the Oregon Nurses Association has gotten ugly. The hospital walked away from the bargaining table after the union announced earlier this month it was going to strike, prompting ONA to file an official complaint with federal regulators. Providence has hired strikebreakers from a nationwide staffing firm, which has been advertising positions in Oregon paying $100 an hour for five days of work. (OHA is telling nurses to return to work after three days, with the intent of demanding back wages if Providence locks them out.) The two sides remain far apart in their demands. A “fact check” document distributed by ONA prior to the strike says Providence’s final pay offer is still over 6% less than nurses make at Oregon Health & Science University. Providence counters that its nurses pay less in health care costs.

BOB SALLINGER TAKES TOP SPOT AT WILLAMETTE RIVERKEEPER: Willamette Riverkeeper, the powerhouse environmental nonprofit known for throwing stones at local governments for not sufficiently protecting the river’s watersheds, has a new executive director. Bob Sallinger, who previously served as the nonprofit’s conservation director and prior to that as executive director of the Bird Alliance of Oregon (formerly Portland Audubon), is stepping into the top spot vacated by Travis Williams. “The organization represents an amazing community of people dedicated to protecting and restoring the Willamette,” Sallinger tells WW. “This amazing river that runs from wilderness to an urban superfund site, with 70% of Oregon’s population living within its watershed, should be one of the premier rivers not just in Oregon but in the United States.” The nonprofit is currently working on stricter regulations around pollutant levels, floodplain protections, habitat restoration projects, and the transfer of Ross Island to a public entity after algae bloom wreaked havoc on the river.

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