In January, chapter leaders and organizers gathered in Portland for OSEA’s Leadership Summit III. The two-day event offered chapters an opportunity to delve into the provisions of House Bill (HB) 2016, a new Oregon law that makes the most significant changes to public sector union rights in decades.
2 changes from HB 2016 have the potential to boost organizing in OSEA chapters. The bill stipulates that districts must notify OSEA of all new hires and give those new hires time to meet with a union representative within their first month on the job. It also gives designated union representatives, such as chapter officers and worksite organizers, the right to use paid worktime for their union duties.
Learning when new employees are hired is an important change for WESDEA Chapter 95, said Chapter President Julie Meraz. “Right after the Summit, we sent an email to human resources to see how we can meet with the new employees. In the past, we’ve had a kick off with new employees at the beginning of the year, but for anyone hired during the year, we don’t have the chance to meet with them. Now we are set to meet once a month during the new hire orientations. My co-president Brent Halse and I will meet with them for half an hour to talk about our collective bargaining agreement and what union membership offers them.”
HB 2016 doesn’t only impact outreach to new hires, however. After receiving a list of bargaining unit members from her district (which they are now required to provide every 120 days) Coos Bay Chapter 33 President Val Eiselein discovered employees who had never spoken with a union representative – because the chapter didn’t know they had been hired. “This has really opened up a lot of communication between us and the district, which has been great,” said Eiselein. “We never had these lists before, and for me it’s huge. During our membership drive in February, we made contact with 38 people we weren’t aware of before. Some of them had been here for a year and a half and we didn’t even know it.”
For Tigard-Tualatin Chapter 51, many of HB 2016’s provisions are already covered by their union contract. But the ability to conduct union business on paid worktime is a welcome change. “Just today, I had to meet with an employee and I didn’t have to schedule that during my lunch or break,” said Tim Manley, chapter president of Tigard-Tualatin Chapter 51. “We’re planning an organizing meeting for our worksite organizers in early March to make sure everyone understands the new flow of information from the district to OSEA to us and that they can use paid work time to meet with the new hires.”
Because the implementation of HB 2016 has created an unprecedented opportunity to organize, OSEA has launched a Worksite Organizer Incentive Program to reward members working to strengthen their chapters. Worksite organizers (or any OSEA member) will be entered in a drawing for cash prizes for when they recruit new members.
Learn more about the Worksite Organizer Incentive Program
“I have been inspired to see many chapters acting creatively and working with their districts proactively to ensure our union benefits from HB 2016,” said OSEA President Lisa Gourley. “This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity and every OSEA chapter should take action to strengthen our membership.”
For help arranging a membership drive or worksite organizer training for your chapter, contact OSEA’s organizing department at (800) 252-6732.
Pictured above: Coos Bay Chapter 33 President Val Eiselein, Zone IV Director Sheila Waggoner, South Coast ESD Treasurer Tove Stroop and Coos Bay Chapter 33 Member Brenda Gesberg during a joint membership drive.