Press Releases

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
503-799-1017towersa@seiu503.org 

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.

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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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“In It Together:” SEIU 503 announces plan to bargain for the common good

For immediate release: Feb. 21, 2013

Contact: Dan Smith, 971-273-9027 • Marc Nisenfeld, 503-333-1620 • Jill Bakken, SEIU 503 Communications, 503-400-1126

Today SEIU Local 503 bargaining teams announced a bold new approach to contract negotiations with the state.

In response to the economic devastation wrought by Wall Street banks, a burgeoning tax gap, and inefficient government spending, 55,000 state workers and care providers are using collective bargaining as a tool to protect Oregon’s vulnerable and middle class.

“Vulnerable and middle-class Oregonians are suffering in this economy. Every year more children are crammed into overflowing classrooms, more seniors struggle to stay in their homes, more families lose access to childcare,” said Molly Stafford, a child care provider from Roseburg and a member of the child care provider bargaining team.

“State workers didn’t create this mess, but we are eager to be part of the solution,” said Dan Smith, a forensic psychologist at Oregon State Hospital and co-chair of the state worker bargaining team. “Today we told the State that we refuse to balance the budget on workers’ and Oregonians’ backs while big banks and high-priced contractors aren’t held accountable.”

Marc Nisenfeld, a development engineer at Portland State University and chair of the OUS bargaining team, agreed. “We can do better than this downward spiral of austerity. An Oregon that fully funds quality public services and family-sustaining jobs is within reach; to get there, we all need to do our part. SEIU Local 503 members are proud to lead the way with real, fair solutions. After all, we’re all in it together.”

Included in the list of bargaining demands are:

  • The State investigates and sues to collect all money lost due to illegal or unethical acts by banks, and ends its business relationship with those banks until they pay Oregonians our money back.
  • The State ensures that corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians are paying their fair share by beefing up revenue systems and collecting back taxes owed to the state.
  • The State makes every dollar count by not throwing money away on expensive contracting out schemes when the work could be done more efficiently in house.
  • The State lowers childcare co-pays for families struggling to make ends meet, allowing them to live and work with dignity.

Contract negotiations for four of five SEIU 503 bargaining teams began in December, with OUS kicking off this week. Negotiations are expected to continue into the summer.

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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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Marion County workers urge commissioners back to bargaining table

For Immediate Release

CONTACT
Sara Fillion, Vice President, SEIU 503/MCEA | 503-930-8072 | sarafillion@gmail.com
Seth Moore, SEIU 503 Organizer | 503-841-1787

SALEM–Marion County Employee Association (MCEA) bargaining representatives have submitted a new proposal to the management negotiating team and State appointed mediator which shows significant movement toward a fair and equitable settlement.

After unsuccessfully urging the Marion County Commissioners to return to the bargaining table last week, MCEA representatives put together a good-faith proposal moving significantly on economic issues. The bargaining team is making this attempt to show county leaders they are serious about settling their contract.

“It’s necessary that both sides agree to further discussion to reach an equitable agreement,” said Mark Terrill, MCEA president. “Working within this framework shows that the services and programs we provide for Marion County residents are important and that the county workforce is respected and valued by county leaders.”

Meanwhile, informational picketing will continue Wednesday, September 26 at 5:00 PM at Courthouse Square in downtown Salem.

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Marion County workers prepare for strike vote

For Immediate Release

CONTACT
Sara Fillion, Vice President, MCEA | 503-930-8072 | sarafillion@gmail.com
Seth Moore, Organizer, SEIU Local 503 | 503-841-1787 | sethamoore@gmail.com

Salem–After eight months of fruitless contract negotiations with Marion County, the Marion County Employee Association (MCEA), represented by SEIU Local 503, has called a strike vote for Thursday, Aug. 30.

MCEA has collected strike pledge cards from a majority of the 735 represented employees. The parties have been bargaining since Dec. 15, 2011, and have been meeting with a state-appointed mediator for the past two months. The contract expired June 30.

“We really don’t see any other option at this point. County employees have already made significant concessions, and unless we make a whole lot of progress on Monday, we feel there’s no other choice but to strike,” said Sara Fillion, who works as a Health Educator at the Marion County Health Department. She added that many county employees could face up to $150/month reductions in take-home pay by the end of the second year of a new contract.

On June 20, MCEA members presented the Marion County commissioners with a symbolic $3.5-million check to represent concessions already made during the 2010-2012 contract period. On June 30, MCEA members organized a “Cash Mob” in downtown Salem to raise awareness about buying local and the importance of a strong middle class in a consumer-driven economy.

“I’m a single mother of three growing kids, and right now I’m barely making ends meet,” said Julia Varillas, a 10-year employee who provides support for family planning and prenatal programs in Marion County. “I’m very glad that I have a job, but I need to make enough to actually support my family. I am very worried that I’ll be taking even less money home each month, and I simply cannot afford it.”

Negotiations will resume on Monday, Aug. 20, at 4 p.m. at Marion County Public Works, 5155 Silverton Rd., in Salem.

Timeline of contract negotiations

Dec. 15, 2011 – Contract negotiations began.

Feb. 27, 2012 – Marion County proposed two more years of a wage freeze and healthcare concessions.

May 17, 2012 – County called for a state-appointed mediator.

June 20, 2012 – First mediated session; no progress made.

June 30, 2012 – Contract expired.

July 25, 2012 – Second mediated session; no progress made.

July 27, 2012 – Union declared an impasse.

Aug. 9, 2012 – Union collected a majority of strike pledges.

Aug. 20, 2012 – Next scheduled mediation session.

Aug. 30, 2012 – Strike vote scheduled.

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$13.4 Million for Senior Homecare Appears Safe

For Immediate Release

CONTACT

Ed Hershey | 971-322-7421
Jessica Stevens | 503-559-2935

The state budget agreement includes a path that is virtually certain to restore an additional $13.4 million in funding for long-term care for seniors and people with disabilities, contrary to press reports earlier today. This was mentioned in the Joint Ways & Means Committee memo under “Other Decisions as Part of Agreement” but not spelled out there.

Under the agreement, an increase in the May revenue forecast would be applied to the $13.4 million. If that approach falls short, added revenue to the state from federal waiver applications for additional federal Medicaid funds should provide more than enough funding. And if neither of those paths lead to complete restoration of the $13.4 million no reduction will take effect before next April, allowing the next session of the legislature to address this issue.

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