Oregon’s 2021 legislative session was truly historic. The session began with a bleak economic outlook that was buoyed by a series of improved revenue projections and a one-time infusion of $2.6 billion in federal aid. Thanks to the advocacy of SEIU members and our partners, these resources translated into historic investments in our essential public services. While our campaign for Essential Worker Pay didn’t materialize before the session ended, SEIU 503 members racked up significant wins in 2021 that set us up to win good contracts and strengthen our communities. We also saw another first: (former) Representative and Freedom Foundation Senior Fellow Mike Nearman was expelled by his peers for allowing rioters into the Capitol.
SEIU 503 members helped to secure $900 million in Public University Support Funding (PUSF), an increase of 7.5% and new all-time high investment, which places our members in a position to bargain a good contract. The Legislature also allocated $200 Million for Oregon Opportunity Grants (OOG) for the 2021-23 biennium, a $28.8M increase over the current service level.
Senate Bill 712 expands Higher Education Coordinating Commission (HECC) voting rights for students, faculty, and staff, giving our members a voice in how Oregon’s higher education system operates. There will not be 2 students, 2 faculty, 1 staff member, and a voting graduate student member to the HECC.
Senate Bill 551 invests $12.91 million for Oregon’s part-time college and university faculty to receive health care coverage under OEBB (Oregon Educators Benefit Board), at no cost or administrative burden to the colleges and universities themselves.
House Bill 2835 invests $5.2 million to establish Benefits Navigators at Oregon’s community colleges and public universities to help students, who are disproportionately food-insecure and housing-insecure, access the public benefits available to them.
House Bill 2590 establishes a Legislative Committee which would evaluate post-secondary institutions statewide and offer an overview of education inequalities in all corners of our state. The bill will ensure that the needs of our BIPOC (Black, Indigeneous, People of Color) students, low-income students, students with physical or learning disabilities, and students from rural communities are heard and acted upon.
Senate Bill 553 provides that students who entered the United States under the Compact of Free Association (COFA) treaty between the United States and Republic of Palau, Republic of the Marshall Islands, or Federated States of Micronesia, and who have not previously established residence in any state or territory of the United States other than Oregon qualify for an exemption from nonresident tuition and fees at public universities and are eligible to receive state and university scholarships or other financial aid.
HB 3047 provides “doxxed” workers the ability to pursue legal action against their harassers. The COVID-19 pandemic affected SEIU members across the state in many ways both personally and professionally, especially as public health guidance continued to change and many members were put in a position of enforcement of those rules with the public at large. This includes SEIU members at Oregon OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration), who continue to mask up and do their jobs enforcing workplace safety rules, including COVID guidance. These members came to their union because they were experiencing extremely unsafe working conditions, including threats of violence and being “doxxed” by the public. “Doxxing” is when someone takes a person’s private, personal information including their address and other identifying information and puts that information online with the intent to encourage others to intimidate and harass them. This tactic is dangerous and puts our members at serious risk, which is why we supported House Bill 3047, which gives people who are doxxed the ability to pursue legal action against their harassers. This bill passed with bipartisan support and was signed by the Governor on June 15th.