Oregon labor briefs

PORTLAND, Ore. — The workers at Rosemont School for Girls here voted Oct. 10 to join SEIU Local 503 by a vote of 37-8. This was a hard-fought NLRB-sponsored election campaign, with lots of anti-union literature, unfair labor practices by management, captive audience meetings, and the termination of a union supporter.

The Rosemont School, a center for young female offenders, did everything to block the unionization effort, up to and including the hiring of union-busting lawyers. The workers, however, hung together and stayed focused on their vision of a better Rosemont School for both themselves and the school’s students and families.

This win came while the Oregon AFL-CIO was in a session that will be remembered for the applause given to John Edwards when he pledged that there will be no scabs if he is elected president.

Alice Dale, now executive director of Local 49 of the Service Employees International Union, is likely to gain labor support in her run for attorney general of Oregon. Her candidacy gives Oregonians an opportunity to vote for a labor leader who has been deeply involved in reforming the workers’ compensation system, fighting for living wages and keeping the public employees retirement system intact.

Oregon construction workers recently saw passage of a new prevailing wage law on controversial public-private partnership construction jobs. The Oregon building trades unions have also blocked several legislative bills that would have weakened safety standards. These victories come as construction worker deaths on the job reach into the double digits for the first time since 1997.

Jose Cobian, a Carpenters’ union organizer active in Oregon, has been deported to Mexico after a long legal battle. While his deportation case moved through the courts he and his family survived through donations received from union co-workers. Turning the tide on ending construction site fatalities will depend on an aggressive union organizing and legislative strategy and organizing among Oregon’s growing number of Spanish-speaking construction workers, say many union building trades workers.

Higher education workers in Oregon’s American Federation of Teachers union have been struggling for many years against the overuse and exploitation of part-time college faculty. The AFT recently won an executive order creating a commission to study how part-time faculty are used in the state’s universities and community colleges. An earlier effort to cap the use of part-time faculty at 25 percent failed in Oregon’s Legislature. AFT members in Oregon are gearing up for the 2009 legislative sessions.

Members of he American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees working for the state of Oregon are considering a “me-too” agreement covering 4,000 AFSCME members. This contract essentially mirrors the agreement recently reached between the state and SEIU Local 503. That deal created new social policy in Oregon by instituting a wage floor based on food stamp eligibility for a family of three. It also signaled union strength in Oregon by forcing the state’s governor to change positions in union contract bargaining and attempt to make up for a previous wage freeze and an attack on the public employees retirement system. As a result of the AFSCME “me-too” agreement, some members of SEIU Local 503/OPEU have already received special additional wage increases. Some AFSCME units are rejecting the agreement because state managers have been given raises by the governor well beyond what union workers have won. Both AFSCME and SEIU have expressed worker anger over these increases and both unions are now seeking higher wages or additional guarantees.

The American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees units working for the state of Oregon have ratified a “me-too” agreement covering 4,000 AFSCME members. This contract essentially mirrors the agreement recently reached between the state and SEIU Local 503. That deal created new social policy in Oregon by instituting a wage floor based on food stamp eligibility for a family of three. It also signaled union strength in Oregon by forcing the state’s governor to change positions in union contract bargaining and attempt to make up for a previous wage freeze and an attack on the public employees retirement system. As a result of the AFSCME “me-too” agreement, some members of SEIU Local 503/OPEU will also receive special additional wage increases.

Oregon’s Department of Human Services (DHS) will soon make available a list of employers whose workers are receiving food stamps. An attempt by pro-worker forces in the Oregon Legislature to pass legislation mandating this failed, but pressure on DHS forced agency heads to comply with the intent of the legislation.

Finally, Portland’s City Council recently passed a resolution to develop a sweat-free procurement policy that will shine the light on the city’s uniform and apparel vendors who sell sweatshop-produced garments and other goods. Leadership in this struggle came from AFSCME, Laborers Local 483 and Portland Jobs with Justice.

For more information on these and other Oregon developments, visit http://willamettereds.blogspot.com/.