After a security delay, the Oregon Legislature convenes today to begin the 2021 “long session.” Despite the pandemic’s impact on the economy, our state is in a position where we can invest in services and build back an economy that works for all Oregonians.
Here are the key issues:
- State budget. SEIU members are making sure we have a seat at the table when legislators decide agency budgets and the money that funds our contracts.
- Build back stronger than before. We learned in 2020 that our essential public services are critical during a crisis. We must make them stronger so we are prepared for the next crisis.
- Fix our long-term care system. Nursing homes, homecare, and other care providers were on the frontlines of COVID-19, and the pandemic exposed many weaknesses that we’ve known about for years. Now is the time to push for better pay, training, and standards, as well as recognizing the urgency to provide workers in long-term care facilities with access to a union.
Over the last 10 months, SEIU 503 members have served Oregonians when they’ve needed it most. From a global pandemic, to wildfires, to a racial justice reckoning, our members have been and continue to be on the frontlines. COVID-19 has further exposed and exacerbated disparities in Oregon, and the Legislature has an opportunity to center Black, Indigenous, other people of color, and low and moderate-income working families in the upcoming legislative session. Our union is advocating for a state budget and policies that prioritize services for people most impacted by the pandemic for an equitable, just recovery. That means prioritizing the people who are essential and the services we provide. We are essential. Find out more about our “I am essential” campaign here and help win a fair budget.
This is a bargaining year for over 90% of SEIU 503 members, and the amount of money available for our next contracts will be determined in this year’s state budget. Governor Kate Brown’s proposed budget is a solid foundation for ensuring that the services we provide will remain accessible as our state endures and begins to recover from the pandemic. It’s a good start, but our state is in a position to dream big.
We are looking to the Legislature to take bold, decisive action to meet the needs of Oregonians who have been most impacted by the dual economic and public health crises COVID has caused and to support the frontline essential workers that have made sure we weathered this crisis. This crisis is an opportunity to re-envision our state and our values, and build a recovery that fundamentally restructures Oregon’s economy to be more equitable and fair for everyone – Black, white, and brown – in every region of our state.
SEIU 503 homecare workers and their clients have experienced the union difference over the last two decades. As we continue to push for better pay, training, and standards, we recognize the urgency to provide workers in long-term care facilities with access to a union. COVID-19 devastated people who provide care and the people who rely on them across the nation and throughout Oregon. A critical part of our recovery will include common-sense reforms that consumers and staff have been demanding for years. These measures would have eased the suffering we’ve seen throughout the pandemic, and lawmakers have a chance this year to prevent a repeat. The time for investment is now. Nursing home facilities with unionized workforces had lower rates of coronavirus infection and death than non-unionized facilities. We believe that all caregivers need access to a union and are looking to create that pathway in 2021.
- SB 434 & SB 435 would require the Oregon Health Authority to adopt rules governing facilities that provide community-based care to elderly individuals and individuals with disabilities to ensure planning by facilities and safeguards for occupants in event of natural disaster or pandemic. At the local level, these bills also create stateside standards like updating the threshold for PPE, and HVAC systems. The bills also ask that frontline workers play a role in developing evacuation and natural disaster response plans.
- LC 2939 would level the playing field in a shell game of who reports what in long term care. This legislative concept asks that other forms of facility-based care, like assisted living and residential care, meet the same level of transparency and reporting nursing homes are required to meet.
Oregon’s Medicaid program, the Oregon Health Plan (OHP), funds a majority of nursing facilities and 30% of community-based care settings in Oregon. Demand and budget pressure on OHP was high before the COVID-19 pandemic, but over the last year, enrollment has soared by more than 150,000 individuals, placing even more pressure on the state’s budget.
- SB 433 would establish a quality workforce partnership. The partnership would establish a table for workers to discuss increased wages, healthcare benefits, and access to quality training. In return for participation at the table with workers, employers would qualify for an increased rate. The understanding is that the increased rate is invested in the workforce, through the partnership.
Fair Shot Agenda
SEIU 503 also supports the 2021 Fair Shot Agenda. Priorities include providing child care & other basic needs to every family, worker safety, immigrant rights, establishing justice for all, and climate justice.