Specials

Who we are…
For the purposes of bargaining, members who work for state agencies are divided into four coalitions – DHS, Institutions, ODOT, and Specials. The Specials Coalition includes: Department of Education (DOE), Water Resources Department (WRD), Oregon State Library (OSL), Oregon State Treasury (OST), Department of Administrative Services (DAS)…


State workers vote to ratify contract

The tentative agreement for the 2013-2015 union contract has been ratified by state worker members. At the ballot count August 17, with just under 5,000 ballots cast, 95% of voters approved the agreement.

We hope you share the pride we feel in the substantial improvements in this contract, as well as in the unity and action demonstrated by thousands of members.  In pickets, purple-ups, strike preparations, and political participation in our communities, the halls of the Capitol and at the ballot box, we demonstrated to management and our fellow Oregonians that we are indeed all “In It Together.”

The next few years will continue to challenge us. There continues to be discussion of a special legislative session later this year to enact further PERS cuts. On the 2014 ballot, anti-union forces are putting forward measures that, if passed, would weaken our collective voice. As we navigate these challenges and prepare for contract negotiations in 2015, we must maintain the great spirit of solidarity—with each other, our clients, and all Oregonians—that propelled us to victory today.

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State Worker Tentative Agreement Summary Video

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State worker bargaining team reaches tentative agreement

For months, state workers have been showing our fellow Oregonians what it means to be “In It Together.”  In hundreds of actions culminating in an overwhelming strike authorization vote, thousands of SEIU 503 state workers sent a loud and clear message that we won’t back down until we have a fair contract.

Our work has paid off. Early this morning, we reached a tentative agreement with the state that we believe is just, returns us to a place of economic stability, and begins to address broader issues Oregonians face.  While we all want and deserve more, we believe that together our campaign brought about the best agreement possible.

Some highlights of the agreement include:

  • Holding the line on 5% premium share, plus a pathway to a 3% premium share in 2015

  • Maintaining the low-wage worker and part-time worker healthcare subsidies

  • Cost-of-living raises of 1.5% effective Dec. 1, 2013 and 2% effective Dec. 1, 2014

  • End step freeze

  • No changes to the 6% pick-up

  • An end to furloughs

  • Healthy workplace improvements, including trauma training, a statewide healthy workplace committee, and enforcement options to address bullying.

More details will be available via email and at www.seiu503.org in the coming days.

Next steps:

  1. Bargaining Conference: On July 27, elected bargaining delegates will come together in Salem to discuss the details of the tentative agreement.

  2. Membership Vote: Following the conference, a ratification ballot together with a detailed explanation of the tentative agreement will be mailed to all state workers in SEIU.  If you are not a member we encourage you to join with your coworkers and have your voice counted by returning the enclosed membership application with your ballot.

In a recent opinion piece in the Statesman Journal, SEIU 503 Executive Director Heather Conroy made the case that the fight for a fair contract is about more than ourselves–it’s about standing up for our clients, our communities, and Oregon’s middle class. We have been honored to help lead that charge as your elected bargaining team, and we look forward to continuing in that struggle with you.

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State worker bargaining update: pushing for the best contract possible

Our team has been back at the table for the last two days.

On Monday, we got some more movement from management.  They’ve moved to 1.5% effective December on the COLAs, better language around contracting out, and they dropped their email ban proposal.

In addition to wages, we’re still a ways apart on the low-wage worker healthcare subsidy, selectives, and the step slide issue.

We’re hoping to reach settlement on a fair contract this week; however, we are preparing to exercise our power next week if need be. Please plan on joining a strike preparation meeting at your local field office this weekend. Offices will be open 9:00-6:00 both days.

We’re back at the bargaining table again tomorrow and will continue to push to get the best contract possible!

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State worker bargaining update: More progress, but not quite there…

Thanks to the dedication of thousands of state workers throughout Oregon—including giving our bargaining team the authority to call a strike if necessary—the State realizes that we’re serious about negotiating a fair contract that returns us to economic stability.

Highlights of Monday’s bargaining session included:

  • Management offering an economic proposal with 1.5% cost-of-living raises (up from management’s last proposal of 1%) in December of each year.
  • On contracting out, the State agreed to provide vital information on all contracts which will better enable us to prevent waste.
  • We were also able to beat back management’s anti-union email ban and now have agreement to stick with current rules.

We took a break from bargaining at 11pm so both parties could review the budget, and will be back at the table Tuesday afternoon. Watch your inbox for an important bargaining update late Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning.

While we’re still hopeful for a fair settlement, it is important we keep up our momentum with strike preparations. Please join us in your local field office this weekend 9:00 a.m.-6:00 p.m. for strike captain training and to pick up materials.

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Strike authorization vote passes

The votes are in, the ballots are counted, and SEIU 503 state workers have given our bargaining team the authority to call a strike if necessary. Members voted by participating in dozens of strike authorization vote meetings around the state and by mailing in absentee ballots.

Our bargaining team meets with the State again on Monday, where we expect to have an earnest conversation about healthcare and cost-of-living raises, and we will continue to push the State to get Oregon’s money back from the contractors and Wall Street banks that ripped us off. Watch your inbox for a bargaining update Tuesday morning.

Although the bargaining team hasn’t called for a strike at this time, setting a strategic date is critical. The date of a strike determines how much impact we can have at the bargaining table as well as whether full-time workers can complete their 80 hours for insurance eligibility.

To achieve the most strategic strike date (if necessary), on Friday, July 12, our bargaining team filed a ten-day Notice of Intent to Strike with the Employment Relations Board. This notice is a placeholder to satisfy state labor law requirements, and would allow us to strike as early as July 22. It can be withdrawn if our team reaches settlement, changes the date of the action, or for any other reason.

“We would like to thank the thousands of members who voted on this important matter,” said Dan Smith, a clinical psychologist at Oregon State Hospital and bargaining team co-chair. “We take the responsibility you gave us very seriously, and we are proud to stand with you in holding the line for the middle class.”

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Hold the line for Healthcare, Hold the line for All

We’re both inspired and frustrated.

Like you, we’re frustrated that management feels that capping healthcare costs is essential for the State but not for frontline workers. We’re frustrated that our proposals to fix some of Oregon’s problems – stopping wasteful contracting and getting Oregon’s money back from Wall Street fraudsters – have been met at the table with resistance.  And, we’re frustrated that state negotiators rejected our offer to extend the contract while negotiations continue.

But we’re also inspired! Thousands of members are taking action this week and next to demand fair contracts and a fair economy. Members are signing strike pledges, conducting informational pickets, and marching on management. We’re proud to be your representatives at the bargaining table.

As we reported last week, management is continuing to propose capping state contributions without capping member contributions. Click here to view the management and unionproposals. This cost-shifting measure means we would bear all the risk if health insurance rates go up more than 5%, as they often do. This proposal opens the door to our premium share rate going up and up every year, with no end in sight.

Management is also proposing shutting down the labor management committee that has been driving positive changes to the HEM program. Have you emailed the Governor’s health advisor on this issue yet?  Please click here to take action.

How could the state’s healthcare proposal impact you?

  • If 2015 health insurance rates go up 10%, as they have numerous times in recent years, the average employee premium share will nearly double from 5% to 9%.
  • What about a 28% increase to insurance rates, as occurred in 2002?  Average employee premium share would more than quadruple to 22%. A $53 premium share would grow to $300.

Strike Authorization Votes July 9-13
Members have made it clear through bargaining surveys and strike pledges that holding the line on healthcare is a priority issue, and that ignoring our proposals for a fair economy is unacceptable. That’s why we are calling for a vote to give the bargaining team the authority to initiate a strike if necessary to move the state.

Please click here for voting times and locations, as well as options for obtaining an absentee ballot. We urge all members who are able to attend an in-person strike authorization vote and engage in this important conversation with your fellow members. The deadline for requesting an absentee ballot is 12pm on Monday, July 1.

We have bargaining again next on Monday, July 8.

In Solidarity,

State Worker Bargaining Team
Keary DeBeck, Justice
Steven Demarest, Employment
Lee Erickson, ODOT
Dan Ferguson, OYA
Peggy Rinck, Parks
Dan Smith, Oregon State Hospital
Catherine Stearns, DHS-OHA
Mary Stewart, Revenue
Heather Blankenheim, SEIU 503 Staff
Heather Conroy, SEIU 503 Executive Director and Chief Spokesperson
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Organize an action at your worksite: here’s how

 

Download these presentations as powerpoint files to share in your workplace here:

Action Leave Behind

Action Tools

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DAS bargaining update: 6/10/2013

We started to make some progress on language issues at the bargaining table last week. We reached a tentative agreement on telecommuting that will increase opportunities for people whose jobs are flexible enough to allow working from home. In addition, we expanded bereavement rights by adding aunts, uncles, nieces, and nephews to the list of people for whom you can take leave.

We are still holding firm on our demand for a fair economic package because ending furloughs is not a raise!!

In regional actions all across the state from Klamath Falls to Tillamook, we have been demonstrating our strength. More than 3500 people have participated in these actions! At the bargaining table, we are moving our timeline forward to be in the strongest position possible to win a fair contract. To that end, we declared “impasse” on Friday. Impasse means that, while we will continue to bargain in hopes of arriving at an agreement, we are fulfilling the legal timelines required to be able to invoke our right to strike.

What can you do to win a fair contract?

  1. Sign yourself and your coworkers up on a strike pledge. We need to demonstrate to the state just how serious members are about a return to economic stability. This is separate from authorizing a strike; a formal vote to do so will likely happen in early July.  Click here to download the strike pledge petition or an FAQ on strike preparations.
  2. Attend a regional meeting in the second half of June to get bargaining updates and discuss strike preparations.
  3. Plan a contract expiration picket at your workplace June 27-July 2.

The Bargaining Team is hitting the road again next week for our second roadshow – we will be visiting worksites and attending regional meetings across the state. Please come share your thoughts and questions!

Also next week:What happens when 40 members pile onto a bus to bring our message of a fair contract across Oregon?  No, it’s not a reality TV show; the Flying Squadron 2013 hits the road on Monday. Track their adventures through photos and video, or better still: invite the Squadron to your worksite for a rally, picket or sit-in!

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Frequently Asked Questions: State’s “6% Buy-Out” Concept

What is the 6% pick-up and how did it come to be?

Prior to 1979, state workers paid 6% of our wages towards PERS.  In bargaining in 1979, we accepted the state’s proposal to pay the 6%, which increased member take-home pay even though wage rates remained the same because members no longer had to pay the 6% out of pocket.

What is the state’s proposal?

Rather than the state continuing to “pick up” the 6% by paying it directly into our PERS accounts, the state would increase member wages by 6% (plus payroll tax costs) and then each member would pay that 6% through payroll deduction into their PERS account.  The cost to members would be zero; the cost to the State would be the additional cost of payroll taxes.

Current system: State funds 6% ———-> Individual PERS accounts (IAP)
Proposed system:  State increases wages 6% + payroll taxes  —–> 6% deducted through payroll deduction into… —–> Individual PERS accounts (IAP)

What was our SEIU bargaining team’s response?

Our bargaining team told the management team that, given the complexity of the issue, we would be unable to respond before conducting significant member outreach. Secondly, we made clear that we would not accept this “buy out” as a substitute for cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs). We told the State that we wouldn’t even consider such a proposal unless it both fully buys out the 6% (including any tax liabilities) and it is paired with a fair economic package, including COLAs, steps, no furloughs, and holding the line on healthcare costs.

How would this benefit us? 

There are a number of ways this would be in our best interests. First, as many have argued before, it would “get the target off our backs” in that our opponents could no longer agitate around the supposed unfairness of the 6% pick-up. It’s very likely — should we prevail in striking down the recently-passed PERS COLA cap in court — that future attempts to end the 6% pick up wouldn’t be a buy-out, but rather would entail some sort of pay cut (i.e. legislation allowing for negotiations over splitting the pick-up, or eliminating it altogether at our own expense).

Second, it would be an additional benefit for OPSRP members (those hired on or after August 29, 2003, also known at Tier 3) as it would translate into a higher average final salary (Tier 1 & 2 members already have the 6% pick-up counted toward their final average salary). Lastly, any pay or benefit based on your wage rate would increase; this includes overtime, out-of-class and lead differentials, vacation payouts, and Social Security.

How might this negatively impact us?

Anti-public-worker groups may try to spin this as a “big” pay increase when in truth this is a net zero change in total compensation with the exception of the small increase to cover payroll taxes. Similarly, others may misunderstand this as a take-away without fully seeing that it actually increases any pay and benefits based on wage rate, increases final average salary for OPSRP members (those hired on or after August 29, 2003), and strengthens our ability to protect our total compensation package.

As we told the state, we would need to make sure we’re held harmless; that they pay the cost of the 6% contribution and the associated payroll taxes. We would need to see this as part of a good economic package overall; this couldn’t just be in lieu of raises, for example, but would have to be in addition.

Is there a precedent for this concept?  Who brought forward this idea?  Why would we consider it now?

The idea of buying out the 6% has been discussed at bargaining tables and in the Legislature for years.  Many unions, including our fellow members at Portland Public Schools and most firefighter bargaining units, have already agreed to a buy-out because they saw it as being in their best interests. This year the bargaining team feels that — given the potential benefits — it would be worth entertaining a proposal from the State but only if it were a complete buy-out and only if it were paired with a fair economic offer as described above.  The team feels that now is the right time to consider this approach because, if we are successful in overturning the recently adopted PERS changes, we are concerned that future legislatures will see the 6% pick-up as an even more attractive place to cut.

Why would the Governor propose this?

“The governor has long been interested in getting the state out of the 6 percent pickup in a way that is fair to workers,” Kitzhaber’s spokesman Tim Raphael told The Oregonian on May 28. “OHSU recently was able to make this change in a way that was supported by 85 percent of those workers in collective bargaining.”

How would it work?

See chart above.  If we were to agree to this framework, our bargaining team would need to negotiate the details, including effective date and implementation.

How would this impact my dues and other payroll deductions?

Just like overtime, wage-based differentials, or vacation pay-out, any deduction based on a percentage of your wages, like dues or Oregon Savings Growth Plan contributions, would also be impacted. If you currently earn $40,000 a year, your dues would go up approximately $4.42 per month based on an assumed increase of 7.8%—6% plus 1.8% to cover taxes.  If you currently earn $30,000 a year, your dues would go up approximately $3.32.

Would I be able to pay that money into a 401k or use it otherwise?

No. The 6% must be paid either by the employer or the employee into the IAP.

If employees will be contributing the 6% into the IAP, can there be an option to contribute more than 6% or determine how the funds are invested?

No.  Agreeing to buy-out the pick-up would not change any of the ways in which PERS operates.  Currently we can’t add to the PERS account, which is why the Oregon Savings Growth program has been offered to employees.  PERS is not set up to accept additional contributions and, unlike risky 401k’s, doesn’t allow participants to determine investments.  The Oregon Investment Council is responsible for managing the PERS investment portfolio.  None of this would be changed with a buy out of the 6% pick-up.

Would this impact my tax bracket?

If we were to agree to this, the bargaining team would negotiate that the contribution be made pre-tax, meaning it would not have an impact on your taxable income. It would not be included in the taxable income portion of your W-2.

Would this impact me if I get SNAP benefits or other public assistance?

Because most public assistance is based on household income and family size, the answer to this is unique for each individual.  Fundamentally, this is a core reason why we should not consider the buy-out unless it is paired with a good economic package that improves wages for everyone, including those who qualify for public assistance.

How would this impact local governments or others who are PERS members?

This change would only directly impact state workers covered by this union contract.  It is likely however that other employers and union members may want to follow suit, as was the case when the 6% pick-up was initially adopted.  Some other union groups, including Portland Public Schools and most firefighter bargaining units, have already agreed to a buy-out of the 6%.

This FAQ will be updated as more information is available. 

For more information, please contact your field office, Contract Action Team leader, or field organizer.  You can also reach the bargaining team at stateworkerbargaining@seiu503.org

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