Published: November 1, 2022

Statement from SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger and President Mike Powers 

Our union is proud to once again celebrate the contributions of Native and Indigenous people in SEIU 503, the broader labor movement, Oregon, and our nation by observing Native American Heritage Month. As we continue to strive to have our actions speak louder than our words, we have prioritized listening to our Native members – through the Indigenous People’s Caucus and throughout our union – on how we can best let them lead and guide us all, then move forward, together, in union. 

At General Council, we strengthened a resolution calling for our union to engage in climate justice legislation to require consultation with the Indigenous People’s Caucus, our other caucuses, and tribal stakeholders. This is an example of tangible, meaningful action we’re taking as a union because of our Indigenous leaders.  

Native member-leader Paula Pena has been instrumental in raising the profile of our Indigenous membership and driving our whole union to do better for Native and all marginalized people. We took her statement on Indigenous People’s Day to heart and want to raise attention to her challenge to us all:  

To be able to meet the “anti-racist” mindset, how are we as a union going to begin to decolonize our way of thinking to help bring healing? How willing are we to ask the questions that make us uncomfortable to help grow and be more in solidarity as humans? 

There is no simple answer to these questions. It’s something we will discuss as a union and need to ask ourselves each day. Most importantly, we can’t treat these observations as a thing we do for one month each year and then move on to the next one. We need to center ourselves on the history, legacy, and current state of our Native and Indigenous members, and work as one to take action for the betterment of all. As our union’s leaders, we ask you all to hold each other and us accountable for that goal. We must all do better, together.