|(Above) An exterior view of the new Local 328 building. (Below) Staff rep Frank Vehafric in his new SW Portland office.
Rapidly growing Oregon
AFSCME Local 328, which represents a wide variety of employees at the Oregon
Health & Science University in Portland, has purchased its own office
building. Member-leaders and staff say that once they decided to make the
plunge, they found it was a good decision.
Obviously, this is not
something in the future of every Council 75 local union. Local 328 represents
about 5,500 members — more than one-fifth of the Oregon AFSCME total that
hovers somewhere over 24,000. More and more of those Local 328 members work
somewhere other than "Pill Hill" — OHSU has extensive and growing
facilities in Portland's SW waterfront area and in other buildings downtown.
"We had some rented space at
the bottom of Marquam Hill, but we were paying about $1,000 a month for that,
it was too small and then the landlord needed it for something else, so we had
to move," recalls veteran Oregon AFSCME Staff Representative Frank Vehafric,
who has been one of the Local 328 staff reps for many years. "As we looked at
it, we saw that we had a pretty decent amount of money in our strike fund that
was only drawing 1-2 percent interest, and we soon understood that we could get
a better return on that money, in addition to significantly upgrading our
office space, by investing in a piece of real estate."
The Local 328 building sits
at 4006 SW Barbur Blvd., about two blocks south of where the OHSU tram passes
Barbur overhead. The local has about 1,200 square feet of office space. It's
also now the landlord for a small, adjacent Farmers Insurance office (about 800
square feet). Additionally, the building has a basement that is being remodeled
into a 2,000 square foot, three-bedroom apartment.
"When the apartment is
finished and rented out, what we receive each month from Farmers and the
apartment tenant will pay our monthly mortgage bill," said Vehafric. "So the
financial part is working out very well."
The new Local 328 digs are
four blocks from OHSU's human resources office, and about five minutes from "The
Hill" and five minutes from the SW waterfront area.
"It's more accessible to our
members," says Local 328 President Matt Hilton. "That's point No. 1. It also
reduces our staff commute time, so they are able to provide more efficient
services to our members. We're simply trying to provide the best service we
can, and this was the way to do it."
Vehafric and fellow staff
reps Diane Lovell and Val Andreas have moved their offices out of AFSCME's
Portland E. Burnside location to the Local 328 building. Kate Baker, Local 328's
fourth rep, lives in Gresham and continues her primary office at the Portland
"For Diane, Val and myself,
this cuts 20 to 30 minutes of commute time from home to work, so that's better,
and it's cutting hours of wasted time getting from the Burnside office up the
hill and back, dealing with traffic, bridge lifts and whatnot," said Vehafric. "We
still have a joint office on Burnside and Kate is there, so it's all working
Telephone and Internet lines
have all been tied to the Portland office, so it's a seamless transition if you
call or e-mail. The staff transitioned less than a month ago, so Vehafric says
a limited number of members have actually utilized the new facility.
"But the response so far has
been great," he says. "It's a good, central location for us, and it's helping
us better serve our members' needs."