Janus shapes delegates’ actions

While in many ways the latest OSEA Conference was like its predecessors — a mix of business and spectacle — the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Janus v. AFSCME loomed large over the festivities as delegates met June 28-30 in Portland.

AFT President Randi Weingarten

AFT President Randi Weingarten delivers the keynote address at Conference 2018.

On the business end of things, the decision resulted in a roughly $1.8 million budget deficit. As delegates grappled with what to do, they accepted a growth and stabilization agreement with AFT that helped bridge some of the financial gap. They also passed a balanced budget that included cuts to the staff line item, although ultimately the OSEA Board of Directors and management have the discretion to determine how best to shore up the financial hole. The delegates also took action on 12 resolutions, elected a new member to the Board of Directors and named a new OSEA lifetime member.

On the lighter side, the program also included Conference staples such as the annual Parade of Banners; speeches from political and union leaders, including Gov. Kate Brown; the crowning of the first male OSEA Employee of the Year in 15 years; bingo; and the Newsy Awards. The festivities also included recognition of the 103 chapters that qualified for an incentive through OSEA’s new Membership Incentive Program (MIP).

Below is a rundown of the highlights from Conference 2018:

Union business

Delegates took care of one last bit of unfinished business from Conference 2017 when they adopted a resolution that changes the election of Oregon AFL-CIO Convention delegates from zone representation to at-large representation and requires nominees to submit a list of their qualifications to Conference delegates prior to balloting.

The one dues-related resolution on the agenda, which would have reduced the current per capita dues rate from 1.8 percent no cap to 1.7 percent no cap, was withdrawn from consideration by the OSEA Finance Committee.

Delegates then approved the creation of a new standing committee, the Civil and Human Rights Committee, and tasked it with developing a study to more completely understand the diversity of current and potential OSEA membership.

In other action on resolutions, the delegates adopted measures identifying OSEA and its local chapters as a single entity to comply with IRS reporting requirements; created an inactive membership category; and changed the title of the junior past president to past president.

Delegates also elected one new member to the Board of Directors — Melissa Siegel of Lake Oswego Chapter 12 in Zone II — and awarded lifetime membership to Mark Petersen, formerly of Rogue Community College Chapter 152.

Keynote address

AFT President Randi Weingarten had just four words for delegates as she started to deliver the keynote address at OSEA’s first post-Janus Conference: “Don’t count us out!”

Weingarten delivered her remarks one day after — in her words — a “slim majority on the (U.S.) Supreme Court took a hatchet to the union movement” and ruled that unions could no longer collect fair-share fees from public sector workers. She said the decision was a result of a decades-long right-wing campaign to “defund and defang unions.”

“We are really living in two countries at the moment,” Weingarten said. She described one country where elites have passed lavish tax cuts, slashed public spending and public education, and attacked unions’ ability to collectively bargain. She described the other country as one where “regular folks” depend on public education and the labor movement to “get ahead.”

Weingarten also spent part of her speech honoring the accomplishments of OSEA’s All In Membership Campaign, which yielded thousands of new members in the lead-up to Janus.

“It’s a spit in the eye of the right wing conservatives who want us dead — 3,700 new members! This is why I say don’t count us out,” she said.

Newsy Awards

Among the awards handed out during Conference, OSEA recognized several individual chapters with Newsy Awards: Gresham-Barlow Chapter 8 for its outstanding newsletter and West Linn-Wilsonville Chapter 102 and Bend-La Pine Chapter 6 for outstanding small chapter webpage and outstanding large chapter webpage, respectively.

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