Most Oregonians can tell you that when it snows in Portland, the city shuts down. What most Oregonians can’t tell you is that when PSU shuts down for a snow day, classified staff feel the impact in their paycheck. The only way for classified staff to get paid for inclement weather closures is by taking their own paid time off.
SEIU 503 members at Portland State have been pushing for inclement weather compensation for years, with renewed interest after the harsh winters of 2016 and 2017. After a snow day this December, members organized a campaign to send PSU President Rahmat Shoureshi an ecard with over 50 signatures asking for support in gaining inclement weather compensation for some of the university’s most vulnerable employees.
When President Shoureshi didn’t respond to the message, SEIU 503 Local 089 members turned up the heat by using their monthly “Take Back Your Break” community building unity breaks to launch a second campaign, this time collecting postcards for President Shoureshi. “It was amazing to see so much support. People were taking blank postcards back to their offices for office mates to complete,” said newly elected Local Vice President Allison Adkins.
In late April, Local 089’s newly elected officers had their first meeting with President Shoureshi during which incoming VP Allison Adkins delivered over 100 handwritten postcards asking for Shoureshi’s support in their campaign for inclement weather compensation. Adkins then asked PSU’s President for a statement in response.
On May 1, President Shoureshi sent the following email to classified staff at PSU:
Our PSU classified employees are, in many ways, the backbone of the University. I want to express my gratitude for the important contributions each of you makes to the success of Portland State University.
I also understand the difficulties many of you face when your paycheck unexpectedly falls short because of a campus closure due to the weather. Those with the least ability to manage those shortages are often affected the most.
I’m committed to doing what I can to protect our most vulnerable employees from this type of financial uncertainty. To that end, it is my intention to declare that days we are closed due to inclement weather will be paid days, as authorized by our SEIU contract.
Thank you again for your hard work and your commitment to PSU.
Prof. Rahmat Shoureshi
The members at PSU have taken an important step towards winning an inclement weather policy for Higher Ed members. The support of President Shoureshi could prove to be vital in the 2018 Higher Ed bargaining campaign, and would not have been possible without the continued pressure applied by SEIU members working at PSU.