Recognizing our successes in 2015
2015 was a very successful year for SEIU 503 members, and to open its first meeting of 2016, the SEIU 503 Board of Directors took time to identify some of our huge accomplishments from that past year, from winning great contracts, to building membership and CAPE, to multiple Fair Shot victories in the legislature (including expanding employment opportunities by “Banning the Box,” retirement security, Paid Sick Leave and ending profiling).
The Board continued its start to the year by walking two blocks from its NE Portland meeting site to support the kick-off rally for A Better Oregon – the revenue measure. The measure will hold large, mainly out-of-state corporations accountable for paying their fair share for essential programs in Oregon. Board members Kim Cole (child care), Rebecca Sandoval (homecare) and Steve Demarest (state workers) testified as to how important services were to the quality of life in Oregon, and how corporations have failed to pay their fair share to make our communities thrive. While the Board attended to its business other SEIU 503 members spent the afternoon gathering signatures.
Finance Committee Report: Funding Requests
The Board approved the following funding requests:
Portland Jobs With Justice: $7000
Southern Oregon Jobs with Justice: $1503
KPOV Underwriting: $1060
Elect to Laugh (KPOV): $250
NW Workers’ Justice Project: $1000
KSKQ Underwriting: $1200
Health Care for All Oregon: $2000
Labor’s Community Service: $2000
A number of court cases, both nationally and locally, are challenging unions’ current structures of membership and, consequently, the welfare of all working people.
Friedrichs vs California Teachers Association is the latest in a series of attempts by wealthy special interests to roll back the rights of teachers, firefighters, nurses and all people who professionally serve the public. The case was heard on Monday, January 11, after being fast-tracked to the highest court in the land. It was filed by a California school teacher and her colleagues, but is being bankrolled by the Center for Individual Rights (CIR), an anti-worker organization with ties to the Koch Brothers. Oregonians have repeatedly voted down ballot measures that would have had the same intended outcome of Friedrichs: undermining public employees’ ability to join together to advocate for themselves and the services they provide. A ruling in favor of CIR and the Koch Brothers will undermine Oregon’s own laws by forcing union members to pick up all the cost of representing workers who are covered by our contracts but won’t join the union. Regardless of how the Supreme Court decides, it will not keep our union from continuing to build membership and strength and winning on issues affecting all working families.
Brown vs Brown is a case against our union and the State of Oregon. It is being supported by the Freedom Foundation and is an attempt to hurt our union financially and distract us from our core work of advancing the welfare of workers and their families. The case challenges the constitutionality of exclusive representation, and attempts to recover fair share fees for fees paid prior to Harris v Quinn in 2014. The case is in discovery now and oral arguments will be heard after mid-February.
Portland Jobs with Justice
Portland Jobs with Justice is a coalition of more than 100 labor organizations and community groups dedicated to protecting the rights of working people and supporting community struggles to build a more just society. Thanks in part to its advocacy, over 15,000 workers got a raise to $15 in 2015. Its priorities include raising the minimum wage to $15 in Portland, supporting social and economic equity and fighting anti-worker attacks.
Committee For The Future Report
The 2014 General Council formed the Committee For the Future and charged it with evaluating the various threats our union is facing and developing specific proposals for how we can adapt and thrive in a changing world. To meet these challenges and opportunities, the committee understands our union to have six major imperatives:
- Increase and incentivize membership
- Expand member ownership and engagement; reduce reliance on staff
- Make governance more accessible and less costly
- Reduce costs and increase revenue
- Expand coalition and partnerships
- Develop a more inclusive, participatory, effective culture.
Based on its research and discussion, the CFF recommends the Board consider presenting the following concepts through resolutions to the 2016 General Council:
- Update purpose statement
- Expand membership beyond workers covered by a collective bargaining agreement
- Ensure an inclusive, participatory culture
- Clarify union structure for greater unity
- Streamline local and sublocal accounting.
Winning Big in 2016: Our Path to Win—In It Together
Fair Shot & Political Power
Fair Shot for All coalition, having just had an extremely successful 2015 legislative session, is ready to advocate for more solutions to improve the lives of all Oregonians. Priority issues for the 2016 session include:
- Raising the Wage: Working a full-time job used to mean supporting yourself and your family – but for too many Oregonian’s it’s not enough. Minimum wage workers take home less than $20,000 a year. That’s not enough for housing, food, gas and other necessities for a family, let alone to pay for childcare or save for the future.
- Stopping Wage Theft: Some Oregon workers put in an honest day’s work, but then find themselves cheated on their hard work. Tragically, low wage workers are the most victimized by this theft of labor. Wage theft happens when employers deny workers the wages they’ve earned—from paying less than minimum wage and refusing to pay overtime to issuing paychecks that bounce, denying rest periods and forcing employees to work “off the clock” or “under the table.”
- Ending Profiling: Every day, people are targeted by law enforcement based on their race, ethnicity, religion, national origin, language, housing status, sexual orientation or gender identity. Low-income neighborhoods and communities of color are targeted the most, leading to higher arrest and conviction rates. Many are already struggling financially and risk harsher penalties from extra fees when they can’t afford to pay the fines that often result from unfair profiling – putting their jobs on the line and their families at risk. And, it hurts the morale of communities already struggling to move ahead.
Growing Our Ranks
Since January 2015, our union membership has grown by over 3,000 members, with growth in nearly ever sector of our union. Member leaders are stepping up and leading member sign up efforts through new employee orientations (click here to see NEO videos), worksite conversations and home visits. New member organizing continues through Oregon Cares and in nursing homes and assisted living facilities.
Bargaining and Contracts
Bargaining continues for a number of private non-profits and local governments. Notably, Marion County has hired an anti-union “consultant” to negotiate the county’s collective bargaining agreement with workers, and Jackson County is preparing for a first bargaining session in February.
Member Resource Center Committee (MRCC) follow-up report. The charge of the MRCC was to make sure a process was in place that left no member unrepresented in a disciplinary situation. A Member Resource Center (MRC) policy already ensures that, but the committee made several recommendations that are being addressed by different committees, including the Stewards Committee. A number of recommendations–including printing MRC phone numbers on the cover of contracts–have already been enacted.
The Board approved the following committee appointments recommended by President Sisk:
Chair – John Hawkins (Retirees)
Rosanne Richards (Retirees)
Jerry Rosenkoetter (Emp. Dept.)
John Leppink (Retirees)
Lisa Sieracki (Retirees)
Jenny Garner ( Retirees – pending approval; past committee member but currently in hospital
Resolution Review Committee
Chair – Lawrence Arnbrister (City of Beaverton, Local Government)
Terry Haydon – Homecare
Bobbie Sotin – Homecare
Noel Magee – ODFW, state worker
Jonathan Spagle – DHS, state worker
Other committee appointments
Stewards Cmte.: Glenn Smith, ODOT, Portland
Staff Screening Cmte.: Theodora Ko Thompson, UO, Eugene
Member Representation Cmte.: Marilyn Jackson-Graves, DOJ, Bend
General Council Planning Cmte.: John Taylor, UO
SEIU Convention & Committee Reports: The 2016 SEIU convention is an opportunity to build enthusiasm about the direction of our union. The convention will be grounded in the Strategic Principles for the 21st Century, an outline for a strategy for our union to survive and prosper in the face of challenges and attacks. The Convention will be held May 21-24 in Detroit, Michigan.
Annual Meeting: The Board approved Annual Meeting for March 12, 2016, at the SEIU 503, OPEU, corporate headquarters,, with video conferencing available in all field offices.
The next meeting of the SEIU 503 Women’s Council will take place Sunday, Feb. 7, in Salem.