As we enter the second month of the 2019 Legislative Session, we want to provide an update on the work SEIU members have been doing in Salem. We have an ambitious agenda this year that will impact our lives and communities across Oregon, especially as we enter bargaining. Our union’s major priorities have one common denominator: raising sufficient revenue from corporations to fund essential state services. SEIU 503 has joined with other organizations to research and discuss the fairest, most equitable channels to generate billions of dollars in new revenue to fund our schools, health care, and social safety net.
The session may be young, but we already have a significant early win:
HISTORIC TENANT PROTECTIONS
SEIU leaders were among the dozens and dozens of Oregonians who testified in support of the SB 608, which will end no-cause evictions and limit rent increases across Oregon. This historic, first-in-the-nation piece of legislation passed through the House and Senate and was just signed into law by Governor Kate Brown. SB 608 is the culmination of years of effort by SEIU members to protect Oregon tenants caught in our affordable housing crisis.
With historic tenant protection law now in the books, we continue to focus on other major legislative priorities that impact members and all Oregonians.
The Joint Revenue Subcommittee continues to hold hearings twice a week on revenue reform, largely focused on understanding the current tax structure in Oregon and evaluating reform options. Our Executive Director, Melissa Unger, represented SEIU 503 at a hearing: Check out this article to read her testimony.
The subcommittee recently signaled that they may have a bill within the next few weeks. We’ll be there to make sure it represents our union’s values.
Paid Family Medical Leave: The FAMLI Equity Act is the paid family and medical leave bill for the 2019 legislative session. Our President, Steve Demarest, contributed a video in support of the bill and we will continue to engage as it moves forward.
Driver’s Licenses: Causa, SEIU, and our immigration coalition introduced HB 2015, a bill that would grant every Oregonian the right to a class-C driver’s license, regardless of immigration status. This has been the top issue for members of the immigrant community since 2008 when Real ID took that access away. There will be a lobby day led by Causa on March 26th and a hearing in late April. Please join us at either!
Child Care: Natalie Jackson, President of the SEIU 503 Child Care Local, testified in front of the House Committee on Human Services and Housing in support of HB 2346, which would establish a task force on Employment-Related Child Care to conduct a study on improving access and develop a plan to expand access to child care opportunities for families in Oregon. Natalie was joined by the Child Care Coalition members AFSCME, Family Forward Oregon, Children First for Oregon, Children’s Institute and Fight Crime. Natalie and Jaki Salgado’s work on combining rate areas was highlighted during the DHS presentation of the hearing and was touted as a positive step forward for providers and families that receive ERDC. We will continue to work with coalition partners to raise the importance of the task force as well as lower copays for parents who receive ERDC.
SB 725 (background check weighted test modifications): The bill had its first hearing on March 4th and it went well. This bill will add clarity to what is an ambiguous process of the weighted test in background checks. Things like old marijuana charges that are no longer crimes should not be considered when the weighted test is applied to someone’s background check. When there is ambiguity in the guidelines around human decisions, it’s nearly impossible for the process to be equitable.
SB 669 (private home care reform): We expect a hearing in late March. This bill will standardize training for ALL home care workers and add levers for accountability and enforcement for bad employers in the private home care market. No one should worry whether or not their home care worker is properly trained and treated well by the agency who employs them. Those things should be standard expectations.
HB 2490 (long term care wage board): Amendments are drafted and our union is working with Rep. Bynum and Rep. Holvey on getting them submitted. These amendments are submitted and we are just waiting to get scheduled. The concept of this bill is about connecting the dots and creating a true career ladder in care jobs.
HB 2569 (fingerprinting and universal provider number): This hearing will be March 11. Adopting a universal provider number has been talked about for more than 5 years; it’s time to do something about it, so we can stop the cumbersome process of requiring two background checks and two provider numbers for folks who provide both home and personal support work.
The Public Worker Protection Act, HB 2016, will help level the playing field for those who work hard every day in public service by codifying best practices related to unfair labor practices, release time, dues collection, and access to worksites, members, and lists. It is the only bill before the legislature that would make the necessary technical changes in the law to protect workers and to ensure equity across collective bargaining agreements in the state.
HB 3075 (Double Coverage): Representative Salinas introduced House Bill 3075, and it will be referred to the House Health Care Committee, where she is now Chair. We expect the hearing to be sometime in the last two weeks of March.
Medicaid Funding: HB 2010 (Medicaid Expansion) protects health care for hundreds of thousands of Oregonians who are on the Oregon Health Plan. The bill passed the House floor with every Democrat and 6 Republicans voting in support. It passed the Senate and is now headed to the Governor’s desk for signature. That means two big priorities — housing and health care funding are early accomplishments of the session.
Prescription Drugs: A multitude of bills have been introduced that would address the high cost of pharmaceutical drugs. All bills were heard in the House Health Care Committee, where pharmaceutical companies opposed them and a wide variety of groups, including SEIU members, supported them.
On Presidents’ Day, SEIU 503 members joined an estimated 4,500 people who marched at the Oregon State Capitol in support of funding public education. PSU worker and SEIU leader Rob Fullmer delivered a powerful speech from the Capitol steps. Our members, as a part of the higher education coalition, had 21 meetings with legislators pushing for an additional $120 million for public universities and $77 million for community colleges (above the 2017-19 Legislative Approved Budget) to go directly toward further lowering tuition hikes, supporting classroom and campus success and enhancing academic, financial, and career advising.
Sarah Ray, a developmental disability adult foster home provider from Ontario, came to the Capitol and met with 5 of the Ways and Means Subcommittee members to talk about the little known provider setting. She did wonderfully and piqued the interest of everyone she talked to, including her Senator, Cliff Bentz.
DHS: Four members from Child Welfare testified before the Joint Human Services Subcommittee on February 26. We also submitted testimony from a handful of other members who weren’t able to make it in person. A home care worker and Careworks activist were both able to testify and we submitted testimony from other home care workers, personal support workers, and an adult foster home provider. The adult foster home provider was also able to meet with most of the committee, individually, after the hearing. Four members from Vocational Rehabilitation testified before the Subcommittee on February 13.
OYA Budget: The budget hearing for the Oregon Youth Authority and our workers there will begin next week. Our members testified and visited with legislators on March 6th.
Food Services Support: In support of the work our nutrition workers at Portland Public Schools do, we submitted testimony in favor of two food service bills that would make school food more accessible and healthier. HB 2760 expands the Child Nutrition Program to allow more students into reduced and free lunches and HB 2579 expands the Farm to School Table program of local agricultural options for school cafeterias.