On February 26, the United States Supreme Court will hear oral arguments in Janus vs AFSCME, the latest attack against working people by wealthy, anti-worker interest groups. The results of Janus vs AFSCME could alter the state of unions in Oregon as we know it — but open shop environments are not new.
“I worked for the State of Nevada for over 12 years,” said Medford DHS Human Services Caseworker Patrick Vejar. “I worked for the DMV, the Division of Welfare and Supportive Services, and I spent the most time with Nevada Department of Corrections (NDOC).” NDOC is where Patrick learned all too well of the consequences of working in an open shop worksite.
“Bullying was rampant. Favoritism and nepotism were blatant with no attempt to hide it ever being made. Most employees who were fired by the department won their position back after obtaining the services of an attorney. This was always done on the employee’s dime as there was no union to assist in these matters. When I worked at the Florence McClure Women’s Correctional Center, we were consistently over-worked and chronically short staffed. At one point I was only one of two Caseworkers for the entire institution, which — at that time — was home to 700 inmates. No overtime was permitted, most days I worked through breaks and lunches.”
The recession hit Patrick’s family hard. Pay was frozen without warning, retirement packages were altered without employee involvement, and benefit packages went up in cost and down in services provided. Because of Nevada’s open shop laws, Patrick’s union wasn’t strong enough to provide the resources needed to fight against these changes in their total compensation. “At that time my wife had cancer and my daughter had several neurological issues,” Patrick recalled. The copays and premiums were so high that we often had to choose between paying for medical procedures or paying the mortgage.”
In Nevada, Patrick’s coworkers were afraid to speak up for their rights because they knew retaliation was imminent. Patrick and his wife Alicia sought work elsewhere, ultimately settling in Southern Oregon, where the couple now both work in the Medford DHS office.
“Working for the State of Oregon is different,” said Patrick. “Employees have a voice and have somewhere to go to when problems arise. It’s important that we state employees do not allow our unity to be broken. A weakened union will lead to decreased benefits, pay, and overall quality of life within the workplace. That is a fact I have personally lived.”
Hear Patrick’s story first hand at two Southern Oregon Town Halls taking place in the coming weeks in Medford and Grants Pass. Patrick will join a panel of workers and activists who will share first-hand accounts of the differences between working in a union shop and working in an open shop.
Date: Tuesday, February 27, 2018
Time: 5:30 ends at 8:00 pm.
Location: The Lodge at Riverside — 955 SE 7th Street — Oak Room II
Date: Thursday, March 1, 2018
Time: 5:30 pm to 8:00 pm
Location: Medford Library — 205 S Central Ave