Legislative wrap up and moving forward
Together, SEIU 503 members accomplished a great deal in Salem. We’re proud of the work legislators did to fund healthcare and protect workers from retirement cuts, but we’re left — again — without a long-term revenue solution that could have prevented cuts to education and programs that serve our state’s most vulnerable populations. Now that the legislature has adopted a final budget, contract negotiations for nearly 60,000 SEIU state (DAS), homecare, higher education, nursing home, adult foster care and child care workers will all kick into high gear.
SEIU floods the Capitol Building
SEIU 503 members were a constant presence in Salem during the 2017 legislative session. On June 6, we held the Oregon Can’t Wait rally that brought together more than 1,000 teachers, nurses, homecare workers and public employees from every corner of the state to demand that legislators raise revenue to address the state’s budget deficit.
Hundreds of SEIU 503 members participated in lobby days where we had the chance to speak directly to our legislators, and over 70 members testified in public hearings. Members were also a regular presence in the media’s coverage of a wide range of stories, including Barbara Casey’s call for the legislature to fund child welfare, Maleta Christian’s plea to protect the Oregon Health Plan, rallies at the Capitol Building, and Steve Demarest’s push-back on cuts to member compensation.
Major victory on healthcare
On June 21, legislators passed a $670 million funding package that will protect healthcare for more than 300,000 Oregonians, including many SEIU 503 homecare and personal support workers, and lower premiums for many Oregonians as well. Oregon has a history of bipartisan work to make healthcare affordable and accessible — and it shows. 95 percent of Oregonians now have health insurance, and leaders in the Legislature, as well as Governor Kate Brown, fought hard this year to ensure that continues despite threats to our progress from the Trump administration.
SEIU 503’s CareWorks campaign brings home 2 big wins
Oregon’s legislative session has come to a close and we’re excited to report on two major advances we’ve made by working together in CareWorks!
First, we helped empower homecare workers and consumers by eliminating non-compete agreements. Many private agencies employing homecare workers have required them to sign non-compete agreements, preventing caregivers from working through another agency where they could earn higher pay or work for other consumers. This practice, while unenforceable in court, intimidated many caregivers from seeking other positions in the field. The bill CareWorks activists helped pass prevents homecare agencies from threatening workers or consumers with a lawsuit if they decide to leave the agency for better pay, better support, or higher quality care.
Second, we won improvements to conditions for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities and the Direct Support Professionals who provide supports in group homes. Through the efforts of hundreds of CareWorks activists, we passed a bill that will create a commission to study staffing improvements, improve wages and training for workers, and improve enforcement for abuse and other violations of the law. As a result of our efforts, the Legislature also took steps to ensure that consumers are informed about independent living options in addition to group homes.
Protecting public employee compensation
Legislators introduced 40 pieces of legislation this session aimed at cutting retirement benefits for public employees. None of them passed. Even on one of the final days of session, Republican legislators introduced an amendment that would have slashed retirement benefits, slashed healthcare plans, and halted salary increases. This last-minute gambit was also defeated. Our success speaks to the years of work that SEIU 503 members put into building political power through our union.
As we look toward the future, it’s clear that the PERS unfunded liability is a real problem the state must address. However, Oregon will not succeed in addressing this problem if public employees — who are not at fault for the losses stemming from the 2008 Wall Street crash — are expected to shoulder the entire burden themselves.
Corporate lobbyists obstruct tax reform
Before the session, Oregon’s business community said they would come to the table and work toward long-term solutions for funding education and critical public services in Oregon. What we got from them was anything but solutions. Instead they stalled or obstructed efforts to reform corporate taxes, even when many individual businesses supported compromise proposals.
Without reform, Oregon’s corporate taxes remain among the lowest in the country, and our state will continue to underfund schools and services. Many SEIU 503 members will see cuts to the agencies or programs they work for, and almost every member will face a difficult bargaining environment.
Child welfare funding
Even in a year when most budgets were cut, consistent activism by union members ensured that legislators recognized the need to invest in child welfare. The program will receive a modest (but badly needed) boost of $30 million in the next budget. The money will go to address two problems plaguing the system: understaffing and a lack of placement options.
Minimizing cuts to homecare and personal support workers
At the start of session, homecare and personal support workers (PSWs) faced severe cuts that — thanks to the work of SEIU 503 members — we were able to stop or minimize. We were able to protect funding for Oregon Project Independence, overtime eligibility for PSWs, funding for nursing homes and nursing home workers, and the Fairview Trust. Unfortunately, the state will still reduce funding to DHS, which will result in closing the homecare live-in program, a recalculation of homecare worker hours which may result in reductions, cuts to services for people with intellectual and developmental disabilities, and reduced support for the I/DD family care program.
Despite these roadblocks, our broad coalition of organizations and activists joined with Governor Brown and leaders in the Oregon House and Senate to make real progress for members and our communities. Together, we won victories on healthcare, workers rights, reproductive rights, health insurance for every kid in Oregon, and more.
Over the next two years we will continue our fight for corporate tax reform. Together with our ally union AFSCME, we have filed a 2018 ballot measure that, if approved, would require corporations to disclose how much they pay in state taxes. This will allow legislators and the public to separate valid business concerns from political rhetoric, and arm Oregonians with information to craft smart tax policy.
Additionally, the A Better Oregon coalition has filed ballot measures to raise corporate taxes and amend the supermajority requirement that currently allows just 13 state Senators to block tax reform policy.
The Board voted not to refer the transportation package to the ballot, and to call on others to not refer other budgetary provisions—especially the provider tax—to the ballot.
Bargaining Updates: In It Together
Update: The State Worker bargaining team has since reached a settlement with the State. Click here for more information!
After months of negotiating in the dark while awaiting a final budget, state workers only recently got clarity about what’s on the table. Unfortunately, what’s clear is that management is insisting that the only way to achieve a modest cost-of-living increase (COLA) is to accept cut-backs to healthcare.
Management’s current offer would increase the employee premium share for most healthcare plans from 5% to 7%, along with a 1.2% COLA. The state has also not made any movement toward our proposals to increase the minimum monthly pay to $2600, and to reward “topped out” workers for their long-term state service. And while we are making progress on some selective salary and differential increases, we remain in disagreement on numerous issues, such as a differential for ODOT sign and striping crews, and protecting OYA mental health professionals from a downward reclassification.
The Homecare and Personal Support Worker (PSW) bargaining team held their latest bargaining session with the state on July 10, where they continued to push for meaningful improvements to the payroll system.
The state made movement on two priority areas:
- Agreement that workers will be notified if there is an error on their timesheet or voucher, and given an opportunity to fix it in order to get paid on time. This is a big win for those who have had pay delayed due to a small error like circling AM instead of PM.
- Right now if a worker submits their timesheet/voucher correctly but isn’t paid on time due to an error by the Local Office, PPL, etc, they sometimes have to wait until the next pay period to get paid. The bargaining team secured language that an out-of-cycle check will now be run within 24 hours of the late pay error being discovered.
In addition to these, the team reached agreement with the state on worker fairness issues, including improvements to the grievance process we use when the contract has been violated, and establishing a consistent email address for all workers to direct issues or concerns that aren’t covered in our union contract.
Adult Foster Homes
In the face of the budget shortfall, our AFH bargaining team is working hard to protect AFH providers and prevent cuts to our programs.
Highlights in our negotiations so far include:
- An agreement from the State that they will modify OARs to allow providers to hire staff on a preliminary basis while they wait for background check approval. This will allow AFH providers to start supervised training of new staff immediately, instead of having to waiting 4-6 weeks to start someone due to the backlog in the background check system.
- Transparency on which OARS you must follow if you have residents who fall outside your home licensing types (for example, which APD OARs a DD licensed provider is expected to follow if they accept an APD resident).
- Improved transparency and information during abuse and neglect investigations, including the State’s responsibility to notify the provider of abuse or any allegations opened against them, and the nature of the investigation as legally required.
We are continuing to push on the following non-economic issues:
- A clearer and more consistent process for AMH providers to gain timely authorizations for their residents. This includes AMH providers receiving payment when authorization is delayed through no fault of their own (for example, when a delay or mistake is made by Kepro, OHA, the CCO, or the case manager).
- Improve the process for the period of time providers have to wait between a requested reassessment and its completion, especially when the resident requires increased staffing supports.
- Better language on what information people get about assessments, including initial and final versions.
Now that the legislative session has ended and the budget is set, we are back at the bargaining table to negotiate rate increases for child care providers.
While we are disappointed that legislators did not pass revenue reform this year, we and secured some funding for our contract. On July 12, the State presented a proposal to raise our rates by 1.5% on January 1, 2018. Their proposal also included $200,000 in funding to provide free classes to providers through the Resource and Referral network. The team will meet with the State again on July 27.
All 57 of our nursing homes across the state will be bargaining together this summer. On June 28, bargaining team representatives met to discuss our campaign.The energy and spirit of camaraderie was inspiring! We learned about the process of bargaining, the roles of bargaining team members and staff, and worked with the chief spokesperson and other team members to develop proposals and strategies for moving effective actions in our facilities.
The first Central Table bargaining session took place July 12. Delegates will focus on pushing management to raise all standards to be better than minimum—minimum wage, minimum staffing, and minimum care.
Higher Ed members are once again faced with the possibility of a strike. Coming out of the legislative session, we’re seeing tuition hikes and service cuts, and the employer has a step freeze on the table along with an increase in the employees’ share of health insurance costs. All of this means SEIU 503 members and students are shouldering an unfair burden to keep Oregon’s universities thriving. Additionally, management has given a flat-out “no” to our proposals to make sure all of our members can make a living wage working for the higher education system in Oregon.
The Board voted to make an allocation of $500,000 into the statewide Hardship Account, for the purpose of assisting striking members who meet criteria established by the Hardship Committee; and $1.5 million into the Strike Benefit Account, which funds shall be used to make strike payments (or “stipends”) to striking members.
Executive Committee Report
The Executive Committee convened June 26 and voted to contribute $1000 to OPAL Environmental Justice Portland.
Finance Committee Report
The Board voted to fulfill the following funding requests:
Portland Jobs with Justice: $2503
Lavender Caucus: $350
SEIU 503 Leadership Academy: $2336
The 2016 General Council voted to establish a fund of $150,000 for community partner capacity-building grants. In the first year of the program, nine community partners applied. The Board voted to award grants as follows:
Unid@s for Oregon: $30,000
Rural Organizing Project: $50,000
SEIU National Update
In the face of overwhelming public opposition, Senate Republicans have released another bill that would rip healthcare away from millions of Americans, decimate Medicaid and increase healthcare costs for the majority of working families. While working people across the country and their allies have been flooding Senators’ phone lines, Republican leadership released stale legislation that still badly misses the mark for everyone except the wealthiest, insurance companies and pharmaceutical companies.
Unable to get a consensus to vote before July recess, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell and other Senate Republicans have repackaged their old proposals from the end of June and the bill passed by the House, trying to sell as something new. But the American people will not be tricked.
The supposedly updated version is still anemic and still stands to destroy Medicaid coverage for 15 million Americans — seniors, children, and people with disabilities. This bill would be disastrous for working people, disastrous in terms of job losses, and disastrous to our healthcare system as a whole.
Timing: A CBO score on the most recent bill is expected Monday, July 17. A vote on the motion to proceed is expected as early as Tuesday, July 18 with a final vote by next Thursday, July 20, 2017. This bill is structurally flawed and cannot be fixed. We must call Congress and tell them to vote “NO” to allowing this bill to proceed to a vote.
This Is What the Senate’s Healthcare Bill Means for Working People:
- The reheated Senate bill still rips health care from millions of Americans, guts Medicaid, puts working people at risk of losing their jobs, weakens protections for people with pre-existing conditions and increases premiums and out-of-pocket costs.
- This bill also keeps drastic cuts to Medicaid in order to give millionaires and drug and insurance companies an enormous tax break. And Americans who can least afford to be without access to healthcare –working families, seniors, children and people with disabilities– will be hardest hit.
- America’s seniors and working people will pay more out-of-pocket costs for health care plans that will cover far less, so the reduced premiums Senate Republicans are touting won’t matter much because people won’t be able to afford the care they need.
New Business/Non-Financial Approvals
The Board voted to amend the Union’s Administrative Policies and Procedures to establish an Asian Desi Pacific Islander Caucus.
The Board endorsed the Portland AIDS Walk.
The Board voted to endorse a celebration commemorating the 1987 State Worker Rolling Strike.
The Board voted to approve interstate travel for the Homecare Council Conference.