The state’s largest public employee union will vote later this month on a contract no one seems to like. The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) along with AFSCME concluded negotiations with representatives from Gov. Kitzhaber’s office in July. They came away with a temporary contract that each union’s membership will now vote to accept or not. If the two-year contract is approved, it will mark the first time state workers have agreed to pay for a portion of their health care benefits, in addition to more furlough days and a 1.5 percent cost of living salary increase.
A vocal group of SEIU members are saying they will vote “no” on the contract, arguing that the concessions are unacceptable and set a bad precedent for future negotiations. While SEIU says that a vote against the contract is likely to result in a strike, many of the “no” voters are advocating for their representatives to return to the bargaining table instead. The bargaining delegates say there would be no point in re-negotiating because although they themselves are far from happy with the contract, they truly believe it was the best they could get.
Oregon is not the only state asking its unionized workers to make sacrifices. AFSCME members in Pennsylvania ratified a contract that includes higher employee health care contributions as well as a temporary pay freeze and Connecticut workers are being asked to vote on a contract they previously rejected.
Are you a state worker? How do you plan to vote on the proposed contract? How would your life be affected by the changes?
- Dan Smith: Co-chair of the SEIU statewide bargaining team and forensic psychologist at the Oregon State Hospital
- Shamus Cooke: SEIU member with the “Vote No” campaign and case manager at the Oregon Department of Human Services