The 2018 short session is wrapping up in a little over two weeks, and we now have a much clearer view of what’s at stake for SEIU members at state agencies and public universities.
Attacks on Benefits
At the start of session we identified four major threats to public employee benefits, including legislation sponsored by Representatives Julie Parrish and Mike Nearman that would eliminate pensions going forward. Today, we’re happy to report that we passed a key legislative deadline without any of these bills moving out of committee, which means they’re dead until the legislature reconvenes in 2019.
Through our political program, thousands of SEIU members have taken action over the years to protect PERS and healthcare plans. That work showed this month, but we know these attacks aren’t going away. Help us build momentum for the next fight by making a contribution to CAPE (our union’s member-driven political action committee) or by sharing your support for public employees on Facebook.
The “Double Coverage” Cut
Last week, we had a public hearing on our “double coverage” fix, HB 4123.
Quick background: double coverage allows spouses and domestic partners who are both public employees to receive two healthcare plans, rather than relying on a single plan to cover both workers and their dependents. In 2017, the legislature slated this benefit for a cut in 2020.
HB 4123 would grandfather in current state workers who receive double coverage and preserve it for children moving forward. We knew coming into the short session that this would be an uphill battle, largely due to the short timelines. As expected, we were unable to pass the bill.
However, SEIU members shared their stories and testified in Salem, which will have a big impact by educating legislators on how this issue impacts workers. You can watch the hearing here to see a few of these stories. This work puts us in a good position to push for a fix in 2019 – before the cut goes into effect in 2020.
If you are impacted by double coverage, and you haven’t done so already, please share your story here.
Through our union, SEIU members are also pushing to get more say in how our retirement money is invested. The Oregon Investment Council makes those decisions today, with no member input. HB 4159 puts the decisions in our hands. Whether we want to be more aggressive in our investments or whether we want to be risk-averse, it will be our choice.
This legislation is moving its way through the process. Tell your legislator to vote yes!
Another threat that has been discussed in recent months is the proposed merger of the Public Employee Benefits Board (PEBB) and a similar benefits board that represents teachers (OEBB). The PEBB/OEBB merger proposal, which came out of a cost-cutting bill in the 2017 session, is problematic because SEIU members would see their voice in healthcare decisions reduced.
Our PEBB representative Shaun Parkman has provided tremendous leadership through the workgroup process. We’re expecting a hearing on February 28, and we’re hopeful that will result in a decision to move forward without merging. If you have questions about PEBB please email email@example.com to reach Shaun directly.