Chapters Learn Organizing Strategies at Leadership Summit IV

Nearly 100 chapter officers and worksite organizers (WSOs) spent last weekend learning new tools and strategies to organize and represent members during OSEA’s fourth annual Leadership Summit. The event focused on new hire orientations, an excellent opportunity for union representatives to educate incoming staff on the role of the union and the importance of membership. Under House Bill (HB) 2016, which passed in 2019, public sector unions have unprecedented rights – and obligations – to meet with represented workers.

“HB 2016 came as a result of years of working with legislators on bills and labor issues, building trust and a recognition that something needed to be done to protect the rights of working people in Oregon,” OSEA President Lisa Gourley told attendees.

Oregon schools are struggling with high staff turnover, an issue even prior to the pandemic which has risen to crisis levels this year. Executive Director Susan Miller shared that districts statewide have had to fill more than 3,000 vacant positions this year alone. With so many incoming school employees, new hire orientations have become a key outreach strategy for many OSEA chapters. A panel of chapter leaders including Dan Cloe, president of Lincoln County Chapter 19, Chris Rosanbalm, president of Jefferson Chapter 141, Sandra Gibson, vice president of Willamette ESD Chapter 95 and Sheila Waggoner, president of Eugene Chapter 1 and OSEA Zone IV director, shared their experiences of setting up new hire orientations since the last summit in January 2020.

Attendees also heard from Government Relations Specialist Bob Estabrook on what OSEA is doing to address the staffing crisis at the state level. OSEA’s legal counsel, Sarah Drescher, gave a deep dive into what HB 2016 means for our chapters. Then, the group split up into small group breakout sessions, where leaders could exchange ideas, ask questions and learn about what other chapters have been doing and experiencing.

Miller closed out the event by thanking OSEA chapter leaders and worksite organizers for their tireless work on behalf of our union. “The past couple of years have been difficult on so many levels for all of us. I want to recognize that, and point out how much our Board of Directors, staff, and all of you leaders in OSEA throughout the state, are committed to building a strong union,” she said. “Like family, through good and bad, we are all in this together.”

OSEA offers resources, tools and training to help chapters build strong member outreach programs. Contact OSEA Director of Organizing Richard Ramirez at (800) 252-6732 or email Richard to get started.