As we have confronted a range of challenges, from difficult court cases to anti-union attacks, SEIU 503 has not only persevered, but thrived. Now we have come together to unveil a five year strategic plan, one that will guide all of our decision making through 2024 and will help us to take this project of a fair and just Oregon to the next level.
To be the Union our members demand of us and to deliver real change in people’s lives, we must be strong, united, visionary and strategic. This five-year plan is a roadmap for getting us where we need to be.
The ideas have been debated and brainstormed by hundreds of people, and developed with union leaders across the state through regional meetings, surveys and scientific polling. Hundreds of member leaders took a serious eye to our key challenges and what we have to do as a labor community to meet them with success.
This plan is a “roadmap to a fair economy,” taking into consideration how we can raise the standards for our membership and address the larger social and economic issues that impact members of our Union everyday. This means taking a hard look at funding state services, and taking on corporations and the very rich to make sure a larger share of the economy is for working people. Over the next five years we are going to focus on winning great contracts in our represented workplaces, increasing representation opportunities and growing our union to build power for more people in Oregon.
“What this plan does is lay out the time and place we live in, which is where income inequality is at its highest, corporations and the wealthy continue to succeed in this economy, while working families, black white and brown, really struggle,” says SEIU Local 503 Executive Director, Melissa Unger. “ This plan lays out how can confront that reality going forward.”
Our plan is broken down into three key pieces:
- Growing our member-run union
- Providing quality public services
- Winning for all Oregonians
“We really need to build an Oregon that supports all Oregonians,” says Unger, meaning that we have to have a holistic approach that looks at ballot measures, bargaining, and expanding union access to all working people in this state’s economy. “We have to look at all the issues that affect members, like racial, climate, and economic justice. We Need to look at healthcare, retirement, and really provide leadership on all of the issues that affect all Oregonians, not just the wealthy.”
Grow Our Member-Run Union
We will do this through deeper engagement with rank-and-file member leadership, and increasing our capacity to raise the voices of employees in their workplace. We have won some critical victories already, such as the creation of “contract specialists,” who act as expert stewards, in many of our workplaces, and revamping stewarding and member leadership programs. All of this is meant to empower our member leaders to lead the union wherever they are, with their coworkers and in their day-to-day working life. We will also be enacting innovative programs, such as new member orientations and training programs, to meet represented workers, find out about their experiences, and get them started in their union journey. We want union leaders to use digital tools such as social media to grow the presence of the union and to create bonds with their coworkers.
In an effort to expand our member engagement, we are working to address issues of diversity, equity, and inclusion in member leadership. We are empowering caucuses, such as the African American Caucus and the Lavender (LGBTQ) Caucus, to engage members on these critical issues that impact those communities.
“We need to build a strong member led union, and a member led union is going to win on the issues that matter. Putting money in people’s pockets, protecting and creating benefits for all of our members, making sure that people have the representation and quality stewards they need, and also making sure out union leadership represents the diversity of our union,” says Unger.
Provide Quality Services
As a union that works in critical areas of the economy, like long-term care and public services, were are uniquely positioned to help revamp our state systems and improve how Oregon’s public services are administered. Diversity is going to be key to the success of Oregon programs in the coming years, so we will be focusing on key training areas like cultural competency, organizational equity and inclusion, as well as how workers’ own benefits system works. We will be matching that with a commitment to developing a diverse workforce all around the state, ensuring that a range of experiences and backgrounds will help to make sure that our state services system reflects the sundry mix of people that make our state great.
We have to have worker focused workforce solutions, which means creating training programs that address the needs our members actually have. This includes the workforce development program that has been created for homecare and personal support workers, as well as benefits training for public services workers and developing solutions for other types of members. We will also have to expand state programs to enhance skills.
We are also putting a keen eye on how we can help stabilize Oregon’s long-term care system. In the next couple of years, around 25% of Oregon’s population is going to be eligible for long-term care services, and without a growing workforce to meet the demand we could enter a “care crisis.” This is why were are addressing this need by creating a training system with a career ladder for long-term care professionals to help create competent and committed workforce to meet that need. As part of this we will also be improving the homecare and personal support worker registry system, to help create more efficiencies in matching up care providers with the consumers they support.
Just as importantly, we will be looking at fully funding government services in a way that has never been fully addressed in recent years. Many public employees know that their departments have long been underfunded, which creates strain on their work life and on the ability of departments to meet Oregon’s needs. Instead of skating on shoe-string budgets, we are going to fight to finally realize complete budgets for these departments as a solution to Oregon’s complex issues. This is how we can bring public employees and the communities they serve together in a common cause, and to ensure that we are fighting for the same vision of our state’s future.
Winning For All Oregoinans
When private sector and non-union workers lose ground, they pull us with them. Attacks on public employee retirement plans are rooted in the fact that so many other people don’t have a pension. Challenges that homecare workers face are rooted in the low standards of the long-term care industry as a whole. If we want to do better as members of a Union, we have to fight to raise standards across the board. We will be linking up the fight for racial, economic, climate, and gender justice, making us a powerful force for change in this state.
Growth is a key component of this plan. We need to make sure all workers, no matter where they work, have access to a union, and the benefits and standards that come with union membership. This program is built on us as members of this union, and as we expand our vision, strengthen the bargaining units, and invite in the rest of Oregon into this fight, we are going to have to take the lead.
We also need to take on political fights that have a real impact on our lives.
So now is the time to get involved and share why the union is important to you. Our union is us, and it is time that we enter the driver’s seat and help make this five year plan a reality.