Following is the report from the May 18, 2013 Board of Directors meeting. Click here to sign up to receive BOD meeting reports by email.
Our “In It Together” campaign is underway with over 90 percent of our members in contract negotiations. At the five state tables (State, University, Homecare, Childcare and Adult Foster Care workers) we are making proposals that will directly support public interest, like getting back PERS investment funds lost to greedy banks and investors and restoring cuts to services for seniors and people with disabilities. For details on the negotiations, click on the links provided above.
All across the state in communities like Tillamook and Monmouth workers are standing up and taking action for a fair economy. Members have been working hard through rallies, informational pickets and actions against the real culprits of a wrecked economy (deceitful banks and corporations paying minimal taxes) to demonstrate that we are “In It Together” with all working and middle class Oregonians. State workers will begin strike preparations later this month with the circulation of strike pledge petitions.
In action demonstrating members are determined to stand up for fair contracts even if it means striking, the board approved sufficient funds to provide members who participate in strike activities some compensation.
Members at Coos Bay/North Bend Water Board and in Curry County have reached tentative agreements and Local Government workers in Jackson County, Lane County Council of Governments, City of Tigard and Basin Transit continue negotiations. Private Non-Profit members at CODA, Parry Center for Children and OPB are also beginning negotiations. Nursing home contract battles are around the corner with contracts for 40 facilities expiring September 30th. Nursing home workers have launched their campaign with a majority of workers in each facility completing a bargaining survey.
Drivers’ cards and tuition equity for undocumented immigrants kept Oregon on a faster pace for Comprehensive Immigration Reform than on the national level where legislation has slowed. On International Workers’ Day, May 1, the governor signed into law the driver’s card bill at a large rally on the Capitol steps where our Executive Director, Heather Conroy and other allies spoke. After a decade-long effort, the legislature also passed the tuition equity bill allowing undocumented students who attend Oregon high schools to pay in-state tuition at Oregon public universities. Both issues had strong bipartisan support. At the national level, the path to citizenship for about 11 million undocumented workers is a top priority for our union. We will continue to work at the national level to win comprehensive immigration reform based on the principals we adopted at the SEIU convention.
Close to 400 workers at Bethesda Lutheran (BL) began a campaign to organize in November, 2012. BL operates 40 care facilities in Oregon for people with developmental disabilities. BL has a terrible track record when it comes to meeting residents’ needs and has been scrimping on operations (e.g., staffing, food for residents and of course, substandard wages for staff) but spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to keep workers from organizing, including bombarding workers with anti-union messages and mandatory anti-union meetings. BL workers spoke to the board via video link about the extreme challenges they are facing in their work and in their attempts to unionize. Click here to sign a petition supporting BL workers.
Several hundred temporary workers in the Oregon University System signed union cards to trigger an election to unionize with a vote likely to occur by the end of June. Workers would join the existing OUS bargaining unit and be covered by the contract that is currently being negotiated.
Over 30 percent of nursing home workers in Oregon are organized and success continues with workers at Pinnacle’s Highland House, Grants Pass, voting to join our union. Members at Green Valley Nursing Home in Eugene are now being organized. When nursing home workers are fighting for and achieving good contracts it inspires other nursing home workers to organize.
Members have paid more than 300 visits to Oregon Legislators with more visits at ways and means town halls to hold them accountable for funding services and standing up for working families. Workers delivered compelling first-hand accounts of the impact of public services under-staffing, the high cost and failures of contracting out and they identified revenue sources through operational efficiencies and diligent tax collection. Members also spoke out against illegal cuts to PERS benefits. Despite the passage of a bill that will impact retirees’ cost-of-living adjustments, the business and school board associations are still pushing for deeper PERS cuts to pay for services rather than for the legislature to eliminate unfair tax loopholes.
We are working in coalition through Our Oregon to close loopholes and explore revenue raising ballot measures for 2014. Our Retirement Security for All bill (HB 3436) is being well received by legislators and we are hopeful we will pass follow-up legislation in 2014.
The board endorsed the Marriage Equality ballot measure. Signature collection for the measure is expected to begin in the near future.
Anti-worker forces are strategizing and beginning their efforts around 2014 ballot measures. We are anticipating a couple of Wisconsin-style attacks on our union including a potential “Right to Work” initiative and “Paycheck Deception” initiative.
Exploration of possible unification between SEIU 503 and SEIU 49 began with a “getting-to-you” process between SEIU 503 and SEIU 49 board members last month. Last month the board agreed unanimously to continue exploring a potential unification between the two unions. Board members cited cross-sector support between public and private bargaining units, overall strength in organizing new work sites and increased political clout (especially with the upcoming ballot measure on “right to work”).
The next step in the process will be to form committees with members from both unions to guide the unification process and make recommendations on issues like the governance, structure and vision of a new, unified union. Members will continue to get update as to developments and will have several opportunities for input. There will be a number of decision points in the process where the board determines whether to proceed with the exploration. Ultimately, this decision will culminate in a vote of all members. Click here to see a graphic description of the process.
Building alliances: worker-run center in Portland protects day laborers’ rights
Since 1996 day laborers no longer have to hang out on intersections in Portland to find work for the day – they have their own hiring hall. And because of the hall the workers not only find protection from low wages, wage theft and other employment abuses, employers are connected to the workers they need. “When you raise the conditions of people at the bottom, you raised the conditions for all,” said Romeo Sousa, Executive Director of VOZ. The Martin Luther King Workers’ Center operated by VOZ, also offers workshops where workers learn from each other including English classes and computer classes. Most importantly, day laborers are taught their rights and how to stand up for themselves anywhere they go.
In addition, the Board approved financial support for organizations with a history of supporting our values and our members work, as well as the welfare of all working Oregonians. Contributions to carry on objectives in the interest of labor and the middle class went to VOZ, Health Care for All Oregonians and Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network. The board also voted financial support for important internal conferences: Civil and Human Rights and the Women’s Council conference.