Oregon’s 2022 legislative session ended on Friday, after lawmakers passed all of our priority bills. Short sessions are difficult times to pass policy bills, but through SEIU 503 members’ advocacy and working with partners across Oregon, we were able to move important pieces of legislation that will have an impact on our state for decades to come.
Our union’s top priority was continuing our work to end the care staffing crisis by passing SB 1556, which will create the foundation for a career ladder to encourage job mobility and advancement for caregivers and help reduce turnover and attract workers. After Governor Kate Brown signs SB 1556 into law, we will have helped move a major lever in addressing care staffing and increasing transparency for consumers and their families. This is truly groundbreaking legislation.
The legislature released significant funding to meaningfully address the staffing crisis impacting our members and the people they care for at the Oregon State Hospital, and created a budget note requiring management at the Oregon Department of Human Services to improve working conditions for eligibility workers.
This year’s Fair Shot agenda was ambitious, bold, and we would find out, attainable. Here’s what we helped make happen:
Farmworker Overtime (HB 4002) finally ends the exclusion of farmworkers from Oregon’s overtime laws. This exclusion is part of the shameful legacy of racism as legislators from the South explicitly pointed out the “racial question” involved in overtime wages to farmworkers. Starting in 2023, farmworkers will start earning overtime pay after 55 hours of work, over the next few years overtime pay will begin after 40 hours of work like other Oregon workers.
Universal Legal Representation (SB 1543) will improve access to justice and advance immigrant rights. It advances due process and access to justice for immigrant Oregonians by providing free, culturally sensitive immigration legal services to income-qualified Oregonians facing deportation.
Transforming Justice (SB 1510) will reduce unnecessary interactions with law enforcement that increase risks of excessive force and violence, improve success for people on probation and parole, and fund services that reduce racial disparities prevalent in Oregon’s criminal justice system.
Emergency Heat Relief (HB 4058 and SB 1536) will remove barriers and incentivize life-saving cooling technologies for vulnerable Oregonians as our state faces record heat waves. SEIU 503 called for urgent action following last summer’s deadly heat.
Oregon made significant investments that were included in the People’s Budget. From housing to childcare to direct payments to low-income households these investments will lift up communities that have been hardest hit by the pandemic and historic and ongoing underfunding and racial, gender, and economic oppression.
Being able to accomplish so much in a short session shows how important it is to have pro-worker champions leading our state. This year, we’re going to have to work hard to elect the people we need to help Oregon emerge from the pandemic in a way that centers working families, starting with electing Tina Kotek as our next governor. Let’s savor these wins and fight for more, together in union.