Advocating for Our Rights Amid COVID-19 & School Closures

Across Oregon, the novel coronavirus outbreak has created a public health emergency that is affecting the membership and represented employees of the Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA), as well as our families, schools and communities. During this unprecedented time we are working with state and local governments, school districts and our chapters to protect the health, safety and well-being of all education employees.

On Thursday, March 12, Governor Kate Brown announced that Oregon schools will be closed through Tuesday, March 31. As a result of this order, OSEA field representatives, chapter leaders, and our legal counsel have had to act quickly to review collective bargaining agreements, confer with employers and make sure any existing language regarding closures is enforced. In some cases, we have had to reach new agreements over numerous issues.

We have reached good agreements with many employers. But we are still seeking to clarify as quickly as possible some confusing information from state agencies and individual employers regarding the closures and the safety of essential personnel. While our goal is that education employees are not financially harmed because of school closures and that any essential personnel working through the closures are safe, questions remain.

Finally, it’s unclear how possible congressional and state economic relief programs might apply to education employees during this time. The details of these programs may have different impacts on public education employees versus private sector education employees that we represent, such as Head Start workers and contracted out school services. Regardless of whether it is in the public- or private-sector, we are advocating for the most generous application of unemployment benefits, leave policies and other financial relief possible.

If you have questions about your specific contract and employer, please contact your field representative or chapter president. Stay alert for any emails we send or any sent by your chapter.

Resources on COVID-19 for School Employees

  • These posters from OSEA promote coronavirus safety in public spaces, including at work. Download printable pdfs in English and Spanish.
  • Federal and state emergency leave laws have been updated in response to the coronavirus pandemic. OSEA explains the changes here.
  • Oregon Health Authority (OHA) provides the latest updates on COVID-19, including information in multiple languages.
  • The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has created a list of cleaning materials which they have verified to be effective against coronavirus. Please note that some of these cleaners may be harmful and should be used with protective gear and proper ventilation.
  • AFL-CIO shares resources from many sources to protect workers.
  • AFT has created a page of resources for what to do when schools close. You can access these resources here.
  • AFT also has information on the virus tailored for school employees, including a section specifically for custodians.

We will continue to share updates and resources, policy changes and safety conditions as we learn more. Please reach out to your field representative or call the State Office at (800) 252-6732 if you have any questions.