Press Releases

SEIU 503 Members Support the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe

The Standing Rock Sioux Tribe of North Dakota has a right to protect their culture and safeguard natural resources essential to their community, the SEIU 503, OPEU, Board of Directors said today in a resolution supporting the tribe’s fight against the Dakota Access Pipeline. The oil pipeline would cross the Missouri River, jeopardizing the tribe’s drinking water source.

The resolution adopted by the Board, representing 55,0000 Oregon workers, states “SEIU 503, OPEU, supports the right, need and efforts of the Standing Rock Sioux, as well as all indigenous people, to protect their ceremonial and cultural sites and safeguard resources valuable and essential to their communities and people such as water, air, soil and other natural resources. The protection of these resources is to the benefit of all people. SEIU 503 calls on all corporations and businesses, and all levels of governments, to recognize and honor these rights.” The Board also approved $1503 to support the tribe’s protest encampment.

SEIU 503 member Laura John, who co-wrote the resolution, just returned from Standing Rock in support of the action to protect the tribe’s ceremonial lands and the access to safe drinking water. She called the situation a clear case of environmental racism and a threat against part of the tribe’s cultural that can never be replaced. The protest, John said, is the start of a renaissance of tribal people standing up for their rights. Supporting this fight is continuing this solidarity and continuing the fight for what is right. All people, she said, care about protecting waterways and not allowing corporations to desecrate historical and cultural sites.

SEIU 503 Board member Kim Cole added, “This is another extreme and stark case of corporate greed directly attacking the dignity, wellbeing, and very lives of working people. SEIU 503 members are proud to join the Standing Rock Tribe on the frontline of the fight against corporate greed at the expense of an entire people and culture.”

SEIU 503 is a union of 55,000 public workers, care providers, and nonprofit employees in Oregon. We envision a just and vibrant society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where all workers can provide for themselves and their families.

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Governor budget reflects trade-offs and opportunities

The governor’s state budget reminds us that, in many important ways, his values are very much in line with those of Oregon workers. His proposed budget would open the door for quality, affordable childcare for more families who need it and fund the extension of the Fair Labor Standards Act to homecare workers—a huge step toward ensuring that all workers are paid for all of the hours that they work.

While the budget reflects trade-offs and many questions and some concerns remain, we are excited for the opportunity to work with Gov. Kitzhaber and our state legislature to form a state budget that gives all working Oregonians a fair shot.

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Lawrence workers win first contract!

Lawrence Convalescent Center workersAfter many months of hard bargaining, workers at Lawrence Convalescent Center (LCC) in Portland won their first union contract late in the evening of September 25. Besides improved wages and benefits, the contract gives structure to workers’ voice on the job, resulting in better resident care and healthier working conditions.

LCC workers voted to form a union on April 17, 2014 in the face of a tough fight where the boss brought in anti-union consultants and pulled out all the stops to prevent them from winning. The issues they organized around–low pay, lack of respect and poor facility maintenance–are being addressed through the bargaining process and through worker action in the facility.

The settlement preempts an informational picket that was scheduled for September 26. The workers will ratify their contract next week.

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Tragic loss for OSH community

Today is a day of mourning and loss. The sudden and tragic passing of Dr. Steven Fritz, psychiatrist at the Oregon State Hospital, who served as president of the AFSCME OSH local, will leave a deep mark on our community and his patients, colleagues and friends there. Dr. Fritz was a loving father of three and the husband of Portland City Commissioner Amanda Fritz.

Magnifying the grief of Dr. Fritz’s passing is the critical condition of SEIU 503 member and steward Cary Fairchild, injured in the same car accident. Cary is an OSH mental health specialist and is as passionate about care and recovery as she is about social and economic justice.

As we wish Cary Fairchild strength for her recovery, our hearts go out to Commissioner Fritz and her family in their time of mourning.

Issued by SEIU 503 Executive Director Heather Conroy and SEIU 503 President Rob Sisk on behalf of SEIU 503’s 55,000 represented workers

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Statement from OEA and SEIU on the Withdrawal of 2014 Initiatives

While Oregon will not see a specific attack on working people on the November ballot, the fight for the state’s working families and our students has never been more critical.

Corporate profits are at an all time high, but more and more working families are struggling to stay in the middle class. Nearly all of the income gains since the end of the recession have gone to just the top 1%, while the rest of us struggle to get ahead.

Even worse, deep-pocketed corporate interests around the country continue to wage attacks on workers, pushing an agenda that would slash wages and benefits while undermining these workers’ ability to come together to protect themselves, their students, and the vulnerable Oregonians we all serve.

We also cannot forget that Oregon’s priorities continue to be woefully underfunded—and it’s middle-class families being hurt.

Oregon has some of the largest class sizes in the country, and one of the shortest school years. College tuition has skyrocketed as the state has slashed funding for higher education, leaving struggling families to carry the cost.  With cuts to programs like childcare for working families and food stamps, too many families are struggling to make ends meet every month.

It is clear that we need significant new revenue for Oregon’s schools and critical services.

As advocates for working people, public education, and an economy that works for the middle class, the Oregon Education Association and the Service Employees International Union will be working closely together to secure more funding for schools and the services that Oregon’s communities need and deserve. We’ll be fighting to make sure that big corporations and those who are not paying their share are doing their part. And we’ll fight to keep Oregon the kind of place where working parents can realistically dream of a better tomorrow for their kids.

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Homecare Choice Bill passes House

On March 7, the Oregon House passed Senate Bill 1542 on a 44-14 bipartisan vote. The bill now moves to Gov. Kitzhaber for signing.

The bill—co-sponsored by Senator Rosenbaum, Senator Beyer, Senator Steiner Hayward and Representative Gallegos, and supported by SEIU—helps aging Oregonians and people with disabilities get quality, affordable in-home care by expanding access to the Oregon Home Care Commission Registry and Referral System.

Currently, only individuals whose care is provided by Medicaid may hire caregivers through the registry.

“Access to quality, affordable in-home care can make the difference between staying at home and having to move into a care facility or a family member’s home,” said Lee Meyers, a retired homecare worker who testified on the bill. “The ability to choose and hire caregivers through the Oregon Home Care Commission Registry and Referral System means increased independence and a better quality of life for aging Oregonians and people with disabilities.”

Individuals without Medicaid assistance currently have only two options to hire homecare workers: hiring a caregiver through an agency, or advertising and hiring on their own. By providing access to a trained, background-checked workforce, SB 1542 provides security to individuals looking for quality, affordable in-home care.

“Recently, my family’s life was changed when my son was in an accident, and as he was getting ready to leave the hospital we began to look for a care provider to help him with daily tasks – bathing, dressing, cooking, eating,” said Tom Chamberlain, President of the Oregon AFL-CIO. “As a parent, I wanted to make sure that we hired someone who he’d be comfortable with, and who would help him maintain his dignity through these experiences.  But most of all I worried about finding someone who wouldn’t take advantage of him or of our family.  SB 1542 will provide peace-of-mind to Oregonians throughout the state by helping them find experienced, background-checked in-home caregivers.”

SB 1542 also puts the state in charge of handling the administrative aspects of the in-home caregiver’s employment, including payroll, legal documentation, withholding and filing taxes, workers compensation and unemployment. Because the state is only recouping administrative costs rather than trying to make a profit, the costs to consumers will be lower, enabling more Oregonians to afford in-home care.

In non-metro areas, it is currently difficult for individuals to find caregivers. The Oregon Home Care Commission Registry and Referral system includes qualified caregivers in all 36 counties, enhancing access to in-home care throughout the state.

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OUS student services workers settle agreement, averting strike

After a long and often contentious eight-month bargaining period, students services workers (non-teaching campus workers like librarians, lab techs, administrative assistants and custodians) and Oregon University System bargaining teams reached a tentative agreement at 2:30 a.m. on Sept. 26.

In light of the agreement, workers have stepped down from a strike that would have taken place system-wide on the first day of classes.

According to Marc Nisenfeld, a development engineer at Portland State University and chair of the SEIU 503 bargaining team, student services workers were simply looking for a fair deal after five years of wage freezes. “The economy has turned around, and people are moving forward. Administrators are moving forward. Goodness knows the Duck’s locker room is moving forward. All we ask is that we don’t fall further behind,” said Nisenfeld.

At the center of negotiations had been the issue of the “step system.” Classified student services workers are hired at an artificially low rate of pay, and put on a “step system” that they follow for the first nine years of their career, at which point they reach the market rate for their work.

Management had proposed doubling the period of time to reach the top of the scale to eighteen years. This agreement maintains the system at nine years.

The agreement also allows for very modest cost-of-living adjustments–1.5% and 2%–to take place toward the end of 2013 and 2014, respectively.

According to Nisenfeld, “Our goal throughout this process hasn’t been to strike–no one wants to strike. Our goal has been to achieve a settlement that moves our members toward economic security and improves our campus communities. We believe this agreement achieves that.”

The tentative agreement will now move to the 4,332 student services workers represented by SEIU 503 for a vote.

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Special Session: Wrong for Oregon

The following statement was issued by SEIU 503 President Rob Sisk and Executive Director Heather Conroy in response to Gov. Kitzhaber’s announcement of a special legislative session:

Robbing low-income seniors of their ability to pay the bills is not an Oregon value. People who have worked hard all their lives should not have to worry about falling behind in their golden years. Yet that’s exactly what today’s PERS proposal would inflict on state workers and retirees.

This proposal—a plan that would disproportionately impact low- and moderate-wage seniors and workers—is especially egregious in light of a proposed revenue package that keeps Oregon’s corporate tax burden at the second lowest in the country.

While students are being crammed into classrooms and our universities remain crucially underfunded, it’s time for big business and corporations to pick up their part of our shared sacrifice. The revenue proposal being discussed doesn’t get us anywhere near that.

Add to these concerns the possibility for long-term, “Business Energy Tax Credit”-style unintended consequences of proposed tax breaks, and the bottom line is clear: This proposal is wrong for seniors, it’s wrong for working families, and it’s wrong for Oregon.

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Statement on Budget Blueprint on Behalf of Members of SEIU Local 503

For immediate release: March 4, 2013

Contact: Arthur Towers, SEIU Political Director 

Statement on Budget Blueprint on Behalf of Members of SEIU Local 503
from President Rob Sisk and Executive Director Heather Conroy

In the wake of an economic mess caused by Wall Street banks’ greed, the co-chairs budget proposal still lets the wealthy and big corporations off the hook.

Too much of the burden of closing the budget gap falls on those who rely on services, those who provide them, and retirees. There is no commitment to fill the gap with increased taxes on the wealthy and big corporations. This reflects the wrong set of priorities.

We are deeply concerned that the illegal attack on seniors’ and public employees’ pensions is still under consideration. The legislature’s own legal team considers the cap on cost-of-living-adjustments to be unconstitutional. We will all have to pay for this shortsighted cash infusion through future legal fees and payouts with compounded interest. Balancing a budget on what amounts to a payday loan is unfair to seniors, public workers, and to all Oregonians.

We know that our state can do better. We call on our lawmakers to consider the following:

  • Cut out-of-control tax breaks and make sure everyone pays their fair share. The Council on State Taxation reports Oregon’s corporate tax burden is tied for lowest in the nation, and in the next two years, Oregon is expected to give away over $36 billion in tax breaks. It makes no sense to grant tax giveaways to those getting ahead in this economy while funding the budget on what amounts to a PERS payday loan.
  • Make Every Dollar Count. This coalition report identifies close to $300 million in savings state agencies can achieve by increasing efficiencies and cracking down on tax cheats. We are pleased that the co-chairs are considering some of these recommendations, but urge them to do more.
  • It’s raining now. As our economy slowly recovers from Wall Street’s illegal and irresponsible actions, we should use our reserves for the purpose for which they are intended: preserving services when Oregonians need them most.

There is an equitable way out of this economic mess: place more responsibility on the shoulders of the big banks and corporations that caused it, not on the overburdened backs of working and retired Oregonians.

Before the rug is pulled out from under a single retiree, we need to make sure that every corporation pays its fair share. Before our teachers, firefighters and personal support workers are asked yet again to do more with less, we need to make sure that our leaders are being as responsible and efficient with our tax dollars as possible. It may be a challenge, but it’s the Oregon way.


SEIU 503 is a statewide union representing 55,000 public workers, care providers, and non-profit employees. Our vision is a just and vibrant society where everyone is treated with dignity and respect, and where all workers have jobs that provide for themselves and their families.

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What is Oregon’s real retirement mess?

In response to today’s divisive and misinformed editorial about PERS, SEIU Local 503 Executive Director Heather Conroy issued the following statement:

“Part of SEIU Local 503’s vision is a ‘just and vibrant society.’ That means a society—and a media—that places the blame for economic short fallings on the banks that caused them, not the hard-working Oregonians who suffer because of them. It also means that all workers—public- and private-sector alike—have access to retirement security.

“In a sense, the editorial staff of The Oregonian are right: our retirement system is broken. Over half of private-sector workers are at risk for retiring into poverty, and Oregonians have lost millions because of bank misconduct. Sadly, instead of investigating the cause of our financial woes, they choose to pit private sector worker against public sector worker; neighbor against neighbor; working Oregonian against working Idahoans and Washingtonians.

“I invite editorial staff to look into the eyes of retirees who will have to choose between groceries and prescriptions if PERS ‘reforms’ go into place and explain to them why they’re the source of Oregon’s suffering economy, and why the state has the right to break the promises that were made to them year after year by pulling the rug out from underneath them in their autumn years.”

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