2018 State of Our Union

President Tim Stoelb described OSEA’s efforts over the last year to sign up new members as he delivered the union’s first post-Janus v. AFSCME state of the union address.

Stoelb told Conference delegates that OSEA launched its statewide All In Membership Campaign back in November in anticipation of the U.S. Supreme Court ruling fair-share fees unconstitutional. Ninety chapters — either on their own or assisted by OSEA staff — conducted a series of membership drives that ultimately raised the union’s overall membership rate by more than 7%.

Stoelb warned delegates that in the wake of Janus they should expect the anti-union Freedom Foundation to mount a “full-scale attack on union members” by encouraging them to drop their membership.

“We must stand united and defy this blatant assault on working people, and I know we can be successful,” Stoelb said. “We can easily counter the Supreme Court decision and tactics of anti-union groups by simply continuing to do what we have done for the past few months: Talk to our members and engage new hires to become members!”

Stoelb told delegates to consider two simple, basic truths: Without members, we have no strength; and without members, we have no union.

“We control OSEA’s destiny,” Stoelb said in conclusion. “If we want to continue to be successful, we need to be united and ‘All In.’”

The following is the full text of OSEA’s 2018 State of the Union:

Good morning delegates.

Thank you so much for that generous applause and for the grand reception during last night’s introduction of your OSEA Board of Directors.

Welcome to what I like to call OSEA’s annual family reunion. It is our 80th anniversary as an organization, and it’s great to see this room filled with chapter leaders, activists and members who have taken the time to be delegates to this year’s Conference.

The State of the Union is an annual message to OSEA delegates that celebrates our victories, recognizes our losses and provides guidance to our delegates on setting the direction of OSEA for the year ahead.

Our delegates, leaders and staff all care deeply about OSEA. That passion has driven our organization since 1938, and I am glad to see it continues to thrive from one generation to the next. We may have differing opinions during Conference business sessions — and on issues we debate — but in the end we all want the same things:

  • Respect for the work our members do
  • Safe learning environments for students and staff
  • A fair living wage with hours of work that qualify our members for
  • benefits and an adequate retirement income
  • And for Oregon to adequately fund education and public services

To achieve these things, OSEA must continue to have influence within the education community and among elected representatives at all levels of government to provide the resources necessary for our members to do their jobs well. But, even more important, is the support and activism of our members.

To that end, this year we embarked on a huge statewide campaign to strengthen our organization.

These efforts were, in part, spurred on by an expected negative decision in the Janus v. AFSCME Supreme Court case. But just as important was the realization that many of our OSEA chapters were experiencing low membership numbers and a general lack of engagement with their members.

When our leaders in chapters large and small became aware of the Janus threat and reviewed their membership numbers, they readily faced these challenges by conducting chapter membership drives. I will talk more about this later, but it needs to be noted up front that our leaders, worksite organizers and other chapter activists really stepped up to the plate on this one while still fulfilling their normal duties as advocates for the employees in their units.

I would like to take a moment here and ask all delegates to stand.

As I look out over the floor, I see local chapter leaders, stewards, worksite organizers and chapter activists. (Yes, delegates are activists, too!) Every one of you in this room represents the core strength of OSEA!

Please, give each other a round of applause.

I would like to thank each of you for the work you do in our chapters!

Please be seated.

Besides our Conference “regulars,” I see a lot of new faces out there on the floor today. I would like to welcome you to your first OSEA “family reunion.” You come from chapters throughout the state and are here because you care about your union and the members you are representing at this Conference.

Would our first timer delegates please stand?

Let’s give them a big welcoming applause.

You may be seated.

No one on this Conference floor can “do it all.” Thankfully, we are extremely blessed to have an amazing staff that is committed to OSEA and its members. We have staff introductions later on the agenda, but I just wanted to personally recognize the efforts our entire crew provided to our chapters this year.

Delegates, please join me in thanking our staff.

This year’s Conference theme highlights what we believe — “Our Strength Endures All.” For 80 years, our members, activists, leaders and staff have faced down many challenges, and they have not only survived — they have flourished.

We have welcomed all newcomers without hesitation into our chapters and into our hearts. Our unity, our sense of purpose and our resilience is what defines us as an organization.

There is little question we are strong. You only have to take a look to two groups on the Conference floor to see where we get it from.

The Lifetime Members and ROSE delegates with us today serve as a testimonial of OSEA’s strength. I referred to them last year as elders. I was mistaken; they are so much more than that. These members are the trailblazers, the visionaries and the sterling example of the solid foundation OSEA was built on. Life was not easy for them. But, through thick and thin, they built and strengthened OSEA much in the same fashion as we did this year. They rolled up their sleeves and were “All In.”

Now, it is our charge as leaders and activists to continue that legacy.

• • •

There are essentially two ways we can further strengthen OSEA. One is to increase and then maintain membership. The second is to make gains at the collective bargaining table.

Our membership reflects our strength. Most of you have seen the power we can wield at the bargaining table when we have members in solidarity behind us. Conversely, some of you have experienced what happens when you don’t have the members to back you up — you come away with nothing more than concessions and table scraps. The power of unity is what wins the day for a good contract or for addressing issues in the workplace.

Probably one of our biggest success stories this year has been in the organizing department. In anticipation of a bad Janus decision, a plan was devised to run a statewide membership campaign focused on increasing and maintaining membership through one-on-one conversations with members and nonmembers.

A Chapter Leadership Summit was held in Eugene at the beginning of November that ultimately served as the kickoff for our All In Membership Campaign.

Representatives from 92 chapters came to this summit and heard about the threat of Janus and how we, as leaders, could counter the effects of the case through organizing and strengthening our chapters.

Out of the summit, more than 70 chapters committed to holding membership drives and began developing action plans. Dates were identified, and chapters were tasked with figuring out how many activists were needed to run their membership drive as well as to identify potential volunteers.

We also asked our chapter leaders to make maintaining and increasing membership a top priority for the remaining months of the schoolyear and into the future.

An important element to making these drives successful was OSEA’s time release program, which reimburses whatever pay our member volunteers would have earned while they worked to sign up new members. We had more than 100 members take advantage of time release, and the results really show.

When we started the academic year, OSEA was representing just over 21,000 employees in 138 chapters. Of those, almost 15,000 were members and just over 5,200 were fair-share payers. We had 88 chapters at 70 percent membership or better.

Since November, there have been 90 membership drives that were either solely chapter-led or assisted by OSEA staff. These drives resulted in more than 5,000 member-to-member worksite conversations, 3,400 new members and 1,600 commitments from current members to remain members.

Additionally, we hired 18 members to make phone calls to nonmembers who had not been previously contacted. OSEA gained an additional 300 new members out of those 2,600 phone calls that were made.

OSEA now represents more than 22,000 employees with just over 17,000 of those being members and 3,800 fair-share payers. We have more than 100 chapters with a 70 percent membership or better with 18 of those at 100 percent. Overall, we realized a 7.6 percent increase in our statewide membership rate.

I believe a huge factor in the success of our All In Membership Campaign was our new Membership Incentive Program (MIP). In March, the Board of Directors authorized the creation of MIP to support the goal of building and maintaining OSEA membership.

This program allowed OSEA to invest in its members by giving chapters an annual monetary incentive based on their percentage of dues-paying members. To receive an incentive, chapters must have achieved at least a 70 percent membership rate by May 1st.

Chapters with a 70-79 percent membership rate received 3 percent of their annual state dues. Chapters with an 80-94 percent membership rate received 5 percent of their annual state dues, while chapters with a 95-100 percent membership received 10 percent of their annual state dues.

The response to this program was overwhelmingly positive. It energized our chapter leadership to vigorously pursue new members to qualify for MIP dollars. MIP is now part of OSEA and we’ll be providing incentives annually for the foreseeable future.

And, as if this success wasn’t enough, we still managed to unload and deliver the contents of a First Book truck in Dallas and Roseburg, organize two new chapters and engage in other community events.

None of this would have been possible without the hundreds of member volunteers and chapter leaders who worked side-by-side with staff making OSEA and all our chapters stronger.

Words cannot express how proud I am of these accomplishments.

Would those here today (including staff) who participated in a chapter membership drive or other organizing event please stand?

This is an awesome example of what being “All In” is about. Thank you!

Please be seated.

• • •

Organizing is not the only place where our members are needed to advance our goals. Member activism and involvement in local and state elections and legislative sessions are crucial to our success in the political and legislative arenas. OSEA’s Government Relations Office (GRO) staff — together with member volunteers — work hard every day promoting and protecting the interests of our members.

This past year, GRO has had several victories advocating for the resources our members need to provide a high-quality public education to Oregon students, while maintaining a standard of living in our communities.

GRO successes included:

  • Implementation of new, OSEA-initiated Oregon OSHA recordkeeping and reporting requirements
  • Securing access and input into assessments and plans for students with troubling behaviors
  • Championing unemployment insurance benefits for classified employees laid off during breaks
  • Institution of a way to bill Medicaid to bring more school nurses into schools
  • Successfully fending off PERS attacks

To get the word out about these successes, GRO gave 30 updates last year to chapters throughout the state.

Beyond advocacy efforts in Salem, GRO is also working to raise awareness of the incredible work our members do through our new Government Relations Advocate program.

This program has already recruited 55 advocates who are self-identified members interested in government relations and who contribute to the Education and Labor Advocacy Fund (also known as ELAF). So far, Government Relations Advocates have participated in important events and meetings with legislators, such as the Joint Committee on Student Success, candidate listening sessions and candidate endorsement interviews.

GRO staff and Government Relations Advocates have worked vigorously to:

  • Protect PERS and your access to affordable health care
  • Provide information and training in special education
  • Secure transportation and nutrition services for students
  • Lobby for education funding — from Head Start through community college

In addition to those issues, GRO continues to make headway in our Work Shouldn’t Hurt campaign. This campaign addresses an important goal of creating a safe learning environment for students and staff working in Oregon’s education system and has drawn the attention of the governor and legislators.

I urge all of our members to be involved in local and state elections and ballot measures. Become a Government Relations Advocate. And all of us should sign up to contribute to our political action fund — ELAF. You can sign up to contribute at the GRO table.

• • •

Chapter training continued throughout this past year for leaders, worksite organizers and stewards. We ratcheted up our training and focused on the organizing piece of unionism. We wanted to ensure the best possible outcome for our All In Membership Campaign. A comprehensive training package was developed by the staff to prepare volunteer activists to build membership within their chapters. The training agenda included:

  • A discussion of Janus and potential ruling outcomes
  • Reviewing the nuts and bolts of how to conduct a membership drive
  • Helping trainees develop and personalize their own talking points
  • A review of key member benefits
  • Sharing techniques to persuade employees to join and role-playing conversations to test them out

OSEA’s 4 organizers and 18 field representatives were divided into teams that were assigned to specific chapters to work with leaders and activists to conduct membership drives.

The training sessions were held just prior to the start of a drive. When possible, the training itself was tailored to include chapter specifics that volunteers could highlight during their one-on-one conversations.

We have found that having the emphasis placed on contact with the employees rather than just sending or giving them a membership card created a more meaningful experience. Finding out how the employees are doing and identifying their issues helped strengthen the chapters in the end.

• • •

In the field this year — despite some budgetary challenges in a few chapters — we’ve seen overall increases in wages and insurance caps for our members. We have also added contributions to HSAs, VEBAs and other funds to help our members offset their out-of-pocket costs for health care.

We have new chapter leadership in many chapters across the state. Well over half of our chapters have current chapter constitutions. We’ve added important language to contracts allowing OSEA access to our members during new employee orientations, additional vacations days such as Martin Luther King Jr. Day, stipends for out-of-class pay, time release when working on safety issues, additional compensatory time and payments for working on joint committees. We were able to leverage two unfair labor complaints to gain major strides in grievance and arbitration language as well as get the reinstatement of member’s cut hours and wages.

The family of OSEA chapters also grew by two charter schools — Trillium, which is currently bargaining its first contract, and The Lighthouse School, which just celebrated the ratification of its first hard-earned contract. Congratulations to The Lighthouse School Chapter 160!

Additionally, the representation of our members this past year resulted in

  • Over 100 grievances settled at the informal level
  • 53 formally filed grievances — 40 of which were in favor of OSEA with
  • 3 decisions pending
  • 92 new stewards trained
  • 49 contracts settled
  • 13 contracts currently in bargaining
  • 1 arbitration — pending a hearing
  • And 4 unfair labor practice complaints — 2 wins, one loss and one pending a hearing

I could go on and on about the great work that we, as a union, are doing for our members and the communities we serve. This year was certainly no exception. I would like to pause here and present to you a brief video of our year in review.

Year in Review Videos

The single, biggest challenge we have is keeping the momentum of our All In Membership Campaign. At this point, we do not know the full impact of the Janus decision, but rest assured our organizing efforts MUST continue regardless.

We know Janus was a political — and not a constitutional — decision. Today, 6.7 percent of the private sector workforce is unionized. At its high point, that number was closer to 35 percent. Today, 35 percent of public sector workers are union.

The Janus decision is simply intended to marginalize public sector unions in the same manner corporate America and anti-union organizations have done to private sector unions. Their single goal is to concentrate power over our economy and working people into a small — but powerful — group.

We can definitely expect the so-called Freedom Foundation to mount a full-scale attack on union members telling them to give themselves a raise by dropping their union membership. We must stand united and defy this blatant assault on working people. And I know we can be successful.

We can easily counter the Supreme Court decision and tactics of anti-union groups by simply continuing to do what we have done for the past few months:

  • Talk to our members and engage new hires to become members!
  • Have the conversation “Why union and why OSEA?” I strongly encourage any chapter that has not held a membership drive to contact their field representative or the State Office to get started.

This past year, we were able to increase our number of dues-paying members by more than 15 percent. That brought our overall membership numbers close to 80 percent statewide. Just step back for a second and imagine what this would have been like if every chapter jumped in and held a membership drive.

There are 2 very simple, basic truths we have to consider:

  • Without members … we have no strength.
  • And without members … we have no union.

Our responsibility is to ensure that when the dust settles, OSEA will still be standing tall. We have been here for 80 years and, by God, we will be here for 80 more!

We are “A Member’s Union.” We control OSEA’s destiny. And, if we want to continue to be successful, we need to be united and “All In.”

Let’s do this!

Thank you.