EVERY chapter needed to beat Janus

By Tim Stoelb, OSEA President

OSEA has a lot of things to be thankful for as we head into the new year — almost 15,000 by last count.

The 14,912 dues-paying members of OSEA understand there’s power in numbers. They know that by joining together in unity they can negotiate contracts with higher pay, better benefits and a stronger voice on working conditions than they can on their own. These contracts ultimately benefit everyone in the workplace — even non-OSEA members.

Currently, OSEA has the ability to bargain “fair share” agreements that give employees an option to either join the union or pay a fee covering their share of the costs of union representation. Sadly, a case set to be heard before the U.S. Supreme Court in the coming year — Janus v. AFSCME — threatens to take this ability away from us.

The loss of fair share would mean the immediate loss of roughly 30 percent of OSEA’s revenue. Even worse, we could see a large drop in membership as people reason why should they pay for something (the benefits of a union-negotiated contract, representation in disciplinary issues) when they can get it for free.

Obviously, the loss of fair share would drastically harm OSEA’s ability to serve and represent its members. But there is a silver lining to Janus.

It forces us to reach out to nonmembers and share our union message: If the union has the backing OF and can speak FOR the majority of employees, we have the power to protect the things our families need, such as fair wages, quality health benefits and paid time-off to care for our loved ones. This is a winning message; we just need to make sure we have those one-on-one conversations to get our message out. Those conversations also give us the opportunity to hear firsthand what issues are impacting the people we represent.

We, the members of OSEA, can control the impact of Janus by boosting and maintaining our overall membership. This will not be a small task, and it will require EVERYONE to be activists. What’s encouraging is that many of you have already responded.

On Nov. 3-4, OSEA held a Leadership Summit in Eugene, where we reviewed Janus and how it could impact OSEA. Words cannot express how encouraging it was to see the energy and enthusiasm generated by 200-plus activist leaders all gathered together in one room developing plans for building and maintaining membership within their chapters.

Coming out of the summit, more than 70 chapters have committed to working with OSEA staff to hold membership campaigns in the coming year. OSEA is totally committed to providing the maximum support possible to make each campaign a success.

But, for us to overcome Janus, we need EVERY chapter involved and engaged in this project. We will be reaching out to those chapters that were not represented at the summit and strive to gain their commitment to this cause. We will also be following up with those chapters that DID attend to ensure that their membership campaigns are on track.

OSEA has survived many challenges over its 80-year history, and Janus is just one more challenge we will face. We need to stand together or we will not survive. I do not want to think what life would be like without our union. We need everyone to be involved and could certainly use your help. We have to be ALL IN to succeed.

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