Hello, OSEA members! My name is Sarah Wofford, your new OSEA president. The first thing I want you to know about me is my contact information – my email. You’re welcome to reach out anytime! It’s important to me that members and chapters always feel supported.
Some of you already know me from union activities, but my journey as an activist began years ago, long before I was an OSEA-represented worker. When I was 12, my sister and I went to a Pride march in Eugene where people from all walks of life came together to support one another. That day, it felt like we made an impact on the world and I was part of something bigger than myself. Throughout my teenage and adult years, advocating for others has been important to me.
In 2011, Rogue Community College hired me as an accounting specialist. It felt wonderful to be working in a place that has a vital role in educating young minds and older adults continuing their education. As a classified employee, my appreciation for our impact grew. Thinking back to my youth, I remember my bus driver in elementary school, Mr. Reagan. He showed me kindness and brought me home safely every day. Nearly everyone can remember the name of their favorite custodian, educational assistant, educator, cafeteria worker or school secretary, among so many others. They made an impression on us when we were young just as we make impressions on our students today.
Going to union meetings and learning about the OSEA Chapter 152 contract was also part of the work routine. A few months had gone by where union dues came out of my check. However, unbeknownst to me, I was not actually a member. On June 18, 2012, I showed up for a contract ratification vote ready to mark my ballot – only to find out I wasn’t on the list of eligible voters! I signed a membership application on the spot and have been a proud member ever since. Soon after that ratification vote, I became our chapter’s PR and Grievance chair. In 2015, chapter members elected me president. This evolution as an OSEA chapter leader may seem familiar to many of our officers.
My first OSEA Conference was in 2016. Over the next few years, the Board encouraged me to participate in state activities and appointed me to our Government Relations Committee. In 2019, I was elected to our Zone V director seat on the OSEA Board of Directors. This year, at our June Conference, delegates elected me to be president.
Today, in our union, I feel like I did years ago at the march in Eugene – part of something bigger than myself. After all, OSEA unites education workers from all over the state – individuals with different jobs, beliefs and backgrounds. We come together to fight for our contract rights, advocate for our students and education system, and serve our communities. We’re the type of people that look out for our students and stand up for our colleagues. In this way, we are like a strong family. Sometimes we disagree, but we always have each other’s back.
Whether or not you are active, you are important to your union. We want members to be involved and stay involved, especially those members in job categories and from regions which are underrepresented on our committees and in leadership positions. If you’re not a member, we encourage you to join! OSEA is your union as much as it is mine.
The protections and rights in our contracts are more important than ever. For too many of us, this is a stressful time of staffing shortfalls, the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and skyrocketing inflation. Our contracts give us hope. I look forward to working together – with other OSEA leaders and our wonderful staff – to build a strong union and a thriving Oregon. The challenges of fighting for great contracts and better working conditions are not insurmountable if we stay united.