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.
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.
After 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.
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
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.
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.
For immediate release: March 4, 2013
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:
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.
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.”