Published: April 8, 2021

Greetings from Lois Yoshishige and Twila Jacobsen, co-chairs, SEIU 503 Climate Justice Committee

An image of the Ever Given blocking the Suez Canal with the caption "the crushing despair of everything from the past year" and a relatively tiny piece of machinery trying to dislodge the vessel with a caption "you, doing your best"When I saw this image coming through my Facebook news, I took a big breath in and smiled at that little machine working away to free the monster cargo ship. Imagine each of us retirees in an excavator, all in a line, all 450 of us. Then add the rest of the 72,000 workers in Oregon represented by SEIU 503, and then the almost 2 million SEIU members across this nation! I think we can move the monster that this cargo ship represents, systems that keep workers powerless, low wage jobs for almost half of U.S. workers between ages 18 to 64, an ever-widening wealth gap between white and Black Indigenous People Of Color (BIPOC) households, a climate crisis threatening our youth and future generations. Just as the Suez Canal is narrow and buffeted by winds from the desert, the global system faces a constricting tide of fear and gales of hate. Being a part of the ocean system, it also is intimate with the moon and tides. The ship was finally freed, when a full moon created a couple inches of higher tide, floating the “boat”. 

Can we also float our economic boat and change the trajectory of low wages, undervaluation of care, and continued racism and violence? I think that together we can harness the energy of labor activism and join with others whose values lift the economy and change the course, leaving no one behind. 

We have certainly learned during this year of pandemic reality that we are interconnected. Globally, according to a study published in Earth Systems Science Data,,  “While 2020’s fall of over two billion tonnes of CO2 is welcome, the scientists say that meeting the goals of the Paris Climate Agreement will need cuts of up to two billion tonnes every year for the next decade. To minimize the uptick in carbon, the scientists are urging a “green” rather than a “brown” response, meaning recovery funding should be spent on sustainable projects and not on fossil fuels. They argue that efforts should also be made to boost walking and cycling in cities and to rapidly deploy electric vehicles.”

The SEIU 503 Climate Justice Committee is focused on current legislation brought forward by coalitions such as the Oregon Clean Energy Opportunity campaign. This is a coalition of frontline leaders and allies from across the state working to pass legislation in 2021 that will reduce energy bills, support home upgrades that help keep families healthy and create good jobs in clean energy projects across Oregon. More information is available on their new website here! The Committee has thirteen members with three retirees, five members who have not been involved before and have a variety of backgrounds, from PSU to Fish & Wildlife, WOU, and Marion County at-risk youth program, and five other experienced members. WE NEED YOU to help us take steps that set Oregon up for a green response. Here are the bills we are following and supporting.

HB 2475 – The Oregon Energy Affordability Act: On March 16, with bipartisan support, the Oregon House of Representatives passed a historic bill for working families across the state. The Energy Affordability Act (HB 2475), passed with 36 votes in favor including two Republicans: Rep. Greg Smith (R-Heppner) and Rep. Ron Noble (R-McMinnville). The bill, which would alleviate energy burden in Oregon, is assigned to the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment.

HB 2842 – Healthy Homes: Is listed on Oregon Legislative Housing Priorities with $20 million allocated.  A Healthy Homes Program and Healthy Homes Repair Fund within the Oregon Health Authority distributes grants to local governments, local housing authorities, nonprofit organizations, community groups, or federally recognized Indian tribes in Oregon to assist low-income households or environmental justice communities with home repairs and retrofits. The Interagency Task Force on Healthy Homes ensures better coordination between agencies doing home improvement work which will ensure better outcomes for Oregon residents. ALERT: We need to support labor standards and wages.

HB 2021 – 100% Clean Energy for All: Update: The 100% Clean Energy for All bill Directs the Public Utility Commission to study laws related to clean energy and provide results to interim committees of the Legislative Assembly no later than September 15, 2022.  

Beyond Toxics and the Eugene/Springfield and Portland chapters of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People have submitted these bills.

HB 2488 –  Equity and Climate in Land Use” Requires Land Conservation and Development Commission to make changes to statewide land use planning goals by December 31, 2026, to address climate justice by addressing climate change adaptation and mitigation and environmental justice for disadvantaged communities.

SCR 17 – In the Senate Committee on Energy and Environment.  This joint resolution establishes principles, builds a framework of shared values, and lays the path forward for future policies and practices based on the right to ethical, balanced, healthy, and responsible uses of land and renewable resources for future generations. One-page summary of SCR 17 (PDF)

These are essential systemic changes that are being proposed. Do not hesitate to contact Lois or myself for how to get more involved during this important Legislative Session. Twila Jacobsen,