In the fall, as members voted to ratify the new State Worker Union Contract, Child Welfare workers pressed on with what has become a year-long campaign to improve staffing of their program and better protect Oregon’s kids. The State agreed to an extended round of negotiations on issues to add to the already-settled collective bargaining agreement — solutions to relieve workload stress and bolster the morale of every represented worker in Child Welfare. During this bargaining process, Union members sent hundreds of postcards/personal stories to the Governor’s office and nearly 500 emails to the DHS and Child Welfare directors.
We believe these changes are important and a step in the right direction for DHS and our members in Child Welfare. We are especially excited about these agreements in context with the selective salary increases in Child Welfare, where SSS1s, SSS2s, and Paralegals saw significant increases in their salary ranges. Our bargaining process has completed, but this work will continue in the legislative session and organizing the Agency to make more positive changes. We will also flesh out the SEIU/Child Welfare Partnership over the next few months to start addressing cultural problems in Child Welfare not solved at the bargaining table.
Here are the highlights of the agreement:
Night & Weekend Shift Differential for SSS1s & SSS2s
SSS1s and SSS2s will now receive a $1.00 shift differential which will add to their pay at a rate of $1.00 per hour (or 30+ minute portions thereof) for any work occurring between 6 PM and 6 AM or on a Saturday or Sunday.
A Bonus to Recognize Worker Dedication and Workload
Child Welfare workers who started work on or before July 1, 2019, and have worked continuous service within Child Welfare through this Letter of Agreement will receive a one-time lump-sum payment of $500. Our bargaining team pushed to make sure this will be processed prior to the holiday. So impacted workers will see it as a mid-month check-in December.
Building Union Power & Worker Voices in Decision-Making
We made an agreement with the State to create an SEIU/Child Welfare Partnership, where Union leaders from Child Welfare will work collaboratively with DHS management to address cultural and systemic issues in Child Welfare. This is an idea that originated from our members and offers an opportunity for workers to provide frontline insight on “significant proposed changes to work practices” before they are implemented and in the context of a Union role. This agreement also committed resources from the DHS Office of Reporting, Research, Analytics, and Implementation to the ongoing work of the Partnership for the purpose of tracking progress around cultural issues.
We agreed to a new Letter of Agreement for Article 86 (Workload Prioritization) that provides more specific language for Child Welfare workers to use while requesting support from their supervisor around workload issues. The new language ties workers’ rights to supervisors’ guidance on workload prioritization specifically to assignments in excess of the workload model. The new Letter of Agreement reads, “Employees who have a caseload above the workload model may request assistance from their supervisor to explore viable options to manage the workload.”
Workers’ Right to Information as Staffing Changes
This Letter of Agreement requires the state to provide monthly reports to our Union and to the newly established SEIU/Child Welfare Partnership between with many forms of data which will better allow our Union to track progress that the agency is making in reference to staffing and retention problems.
Thanks to everyone that participate in bargaining actions over the last few months and also during full bargaining. These actions pushed DHS and the state to find resources to invest in current staff. We would not have found many of these solutions and agreements without the investment of time and energy from members. Thank you!
Child Welfare Bargaining Team
Anandi van Diepen-Hedayat