The 34 SEIU 503 members at Portland’s Cascade AIDS Project recently won a new contract after several long and tough bargaining sessions. The four-year, nine-month agreement retains 100% health-care coverage, plus it features a 2.5% COLA the first year and 2% in each of the second and third years. Members unanimously ratified the new contract on Monday, June 25.
“I never would have imagined that we (the Union-represented staff) would have to bargain not only for equality in our compensation and benefits but for our Union representation as a whole,” said CAP President (and Bargaining Team member) Benjamin Gerritz. “Comments such as, ‘Why don’t we just get rid of the contract altogether?,’ set the tone for what we were up against. It was great to see that in response to this rhetoric, Union members emboldened their belief in the importance of SEIU representation.”
One area where agreement eluded members was wearing SEIU t-shirts at work. At the last bargaining session, 20 members of a unit of 34 came out to testify and force management to have a dialogue about what wearing a union t-shirt means. After an hour-and-a-half of testimony and dialogue, they wore management down. Members retained their right to wear an SEIU t-shirt, as well as a co-branded SEIU/CAP t-shirt, and a first labor-management collaboration meeting will help design the co-branded shirts.
Organizer Lisa Donoho said the CAP Bargaining Team was an inspiration to their membership by conducting themselves as leaders, moving petitions, leading meetings, writing proposals and eloquently yet objectively communicating their issues to management, all the while keeping quality services to clients in mind.
“They have been a great inspiration to their membership who absolutely refused to lose the battle over their union rights. Of the several contracts I have bargained, this was certainly the most challenging, not just for me but also the bargaining team,” she said. “Without this struggle, I don’t see that these workers would have become such powerful leaders of their workplace.”