Published: July 28, 2020

The Oregon Health Authority announced our state’s first presumptive case of COVID-19 on February 28th, five months ago today. Life has not been the same since.

Key Points

  • SEIU members bargained more than 40 letters of agreement with employers, covering everything from paid time off to telework to required notice of COVID exposure.
  • We launched, a public service for Oregonians trying to navigate state services during the crisis.
  • We fought for PPE, making sure that the very first shipments of PPE from the national guard prioritized our members who were working on the frontlines.
  • We have – and continue to – pressure state and federal leaders to center their response on working families and strong public services. 

It’s been five months and we don’t know when we will be able to return to normal. This milestone presents an opportunity to pause and reflect on the work our Union has done to maintain our health and economic security.

In the total absence of federal leadership in addressing the public health crisis this pandemic has brought, states, local governments and unions have been forced to step up. SEIU 503 members have and continue to engage with our federal delegation to demand a COVID recovery that centers on working families and provides sufficient PPE and hazard/essential pay for all essential workers. We’ve held town hall meetings with Senators Merkley and Wyden and Congressperson Blumenauer, letting them know the impact of federal inaction directly from SEIU 503 members.

We’ve also experienced a second history-changing event with the death of George Floyd at the hands of the Minneapolis police on May 25th, bringing our nation’s systemic racism to the forefront. Our Union responded to the moment, making a commitment to becoming an anti-racist organization and dismantling white supremacy. While taking on this new challenge, we remained vigilant in fighting for our members during this pandemic. We’ve accomplished a lot, together. 

We’ve bargained more than 40 Letters of Agreement (LOAs), and counting, during the pandemic to make adjustments to further worker safety and security. We joined with the leaders of Oregon’s public universities to request Governor Kate Brown provide unemployment insurance protections for higher education workers impacted by the pandemic. After months of calling for telework options at the Employment Department, we won a pilot program to allow employees to work from home. When homecare workers had no PTO, we created two programs through our trust and bargaining. We also won additional state funding for nursing homes on the condition that employers give workers PTO and hazard pay.

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As the need for PPE by essential workers has far exceeded supply, we’ve fought aggressively for the necessary safety equipment every essential worker needs to do their job. Our members also launched a campaign to solicit PPE donations to help fill the gap.

Our Union created Get Help COVID Oregon, a portal that directs members in need to a comprehensive array of available resources. We also launched the COVID Worker Hardship Fund, which has distributed over $200,000 to over 1,000 SEIU 503 members experiencing economic insecurity as a result of the pandemic.

The economic toll on Oregon’s state budget is dire. As our state awaits the next round of federal COVID relief to finalize changes to the current budget, we are aggressively fighting to prevent harmful cuts to the services SEIU 503 members provide. We fought to ensure that over $525 million in federal relief funding was invested in areas of critical need until the Legislature reconvenes, including increased paid time off, housing and food assistance, and testing for long-term care workers.

Do you support our voluntary political program, CAPE? 

Call 1-844-503-SEIU (7348) or click here to become a member today! 

Throughout this crisis, our Union has been committed to providing every member with the information they need. When the crisis struck, we moved quickly to create resources pages for SEIU members at These pages have been viewed by more than 39,000 SEIU members since March. We’ve hosted a series of tele-town halls, which have been attended by thousands of SEIU members, and our Member Assistance Center has fielded more than 3,300 calls to assist members with issues related to COVID-19.

As we navigate through these turbulent times, we will continue to let members know what’s happening and how we can work together to survive and thrive.