Friday, November 3, 2017

Don’t Let Cyber Monday be Your Waterloo

As tempting as the specials are, don’t let Cyber Monday be your Waterloo.  It seems like the holidays keep getting earlier and earlier and that is why I would like to share this reminder that ODF has a computer use (enforcement) policy.  I’m not going to go over it all, in case I mis-state the exact language, but personal financial transactions should not be conducted using an ODF computer.  Even if a deal is great and time limited taking a shortcut with the work computer is not the way to do it. A computer that thinks in “ones and zeros” and has a time clock leaves little to the imagination for minutes of use and websites visited.  This season remember that Santa will know who is naughty or within policy.

Save the date, Saturday, January 20, 2018 for the next Forestry Sub-local Statewide Meeting.  Location to be determined, but likely on the Central Oregon Coast.

Forestry Sub-local nominations for Statewide Officers will open in early February 2018.

Sunday, October 22, 2017

Stewards Conference, Sharpens the Sword

Stewards stand up and stand out in our workplaces and SEIU 503’s biennial Stewards Conference allowed for reconnecting, sharing stories and training to improve skills.  Micki Varney a Steward representing ODFW employees summed up the reasons why she and many Stewards take on the responsibility the willingness to help others, seeking a sense of fairness, and looking for social justice.

In the classes that I took Making a Good First Impression, Information Requests, and Putting it all into Practice, skilled organizers shared their skills in holding an effective 15-20 minute orientation, what information can be requested to support a grievant and some grievance meeting role playing.  The world changes but the need to be supported and join together to solve worksite problems doesn’t, and we were reminded that “everyone in this room is the Union, really our Union”.  “Go ahead and start filling out your membership forms”.

Contact your Steward first and if none is available contact the Member Resource Center phone number 1-844-503-SEIU and e-mail:

Next Contract Enforcement training, SEIU 503 Salem Headquarters, 1730 Commercial St. NE, Salem begins Friday November 3rd 5:30 - 8:30 P and continues Saturday November 4th 9:00 A - 4:00 P. Register online:

Next Sub-local 629 Forestry Statewide meeting, January or February 2018 

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ready and Not Called to Fight Wildfire

It was surprising how many people when asked if they worked on any of the big fires in Oregon did not raise their hand.  Many wanted to go, packed and ready, with open task books, but for one reason or another were never called.  One reason is that work duties at their site of employment, Salem or in the field, have completion deadlines to meet meet Program responsibilities.  Another is that picking out that one person you know would be a good fit for the job at hand was not an available option. There is another reason that we as employees should be able to discuss, availability.

Under current policy when you say you are available to fight a wildfire you are committing to a 14 day hitch.  The Program you are working on also has to be willing to see you gone for two weeks.  Not everyone has 14 completely open, consecutive, unplanned days within Oregon summer’s short 12 week run. Year after year.  It seems like there are other availability models to try, like 3 or 5 day surges, get in, help and go home.  If you have stories about what a reasonable assignment might look like and what prevented you from participating in Oregon’s wildfire season please let me know.

Our next Forestry Sub-local Statewide meeting will be Saturday, October 21st from 8:00 to 9:30 a.m. at the Salem Convention Center, 200 Commercial Street SE.   

Saturday, September 23, 2017

Wildfire Assistance Offered by SEIU 503

SEIU 503 is offering a one time financial assistance award to those members effected by this summers (2017) wildfires.  The link to this assistance is here:

A more complete description of how SEIU 503 is recognizing the contributions of wildland firefighters and this financial assistance award is at the SEIU 503 homepage.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Save October 21st for Statewide Meeting and Stewards Conference

All members are invited to our next Forestry Sub-Local Statewide meeting on Saturday, October 21st beginning at 8:00 a.m. at the Salem Convention Center, 200 Commercial Street SE, Salem.  At 9:30 a.m. our meeting will transition to the SEIU 503 Stewards Conference at the same location.  A call in option for the Forestry meeting is being planned.

The agenda for our Statewide meeting has not been set but the Stewards Conference has a number of interesting educational programs that will definitely make it worth staying around.  Registration is now open for the Stewards Conference and for more information contact your organizer.

While our Statewide Forestry Sub-Local agenda has not been set, one thing that will definitely happen is distribution of swag and a drawing for custom belt buckles.  For the buckles you must be present to win.

Please, save this day to participate in the operations of your Forestry Sub-Local.  To submit agenda items please do so through any of your Local’s elected leadership.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

Standard Assignment Needs a Revisit

"You mean if I had worked two more hours when I arrived at Horse Prairie that would have qualified me as working a full Standard Assignment”, yes that is the way the new Standard Assignment Policy is being applied.  The way the Standard Assignment Policy is being applied is that an employee has to work a minimum of 12 hours/ day at the fire or incident to begin the count. A full Standard Assignment is a total of 14 continuous days where the employee works a minimum of 12 hours per day. It was a bit of a shock to the employee quoted who drove 4-5 hours and began assigned fire duties for 10 more hours that they did not qualify as a day working on the fire.   Travel time to and from the incident does not count towards Standard Assignment calculations.

While the concept and need of a Standard Assignment and day of Rest and Recovery were brought to the bargaining table (thank you Brandon), at that forum there was just not enough time to adequately discuss, develop, and fine tune workable Contract language.  Standard Assignment and Rest and Recovery were developed as Policy and are not associated with our Contract and subject to interpretation through the grievance process.

The Standard Assignment/ Rest and Recovery Policy is a strong and bold move towards recognizing the health and safety of Department Firefighters and as noted in a June posting, welcomed.  Now that the Policy has been field tested it is hoped that there will be an after season review of how it helped maintain firefighter readiness and explore opportunities for improvement.  A forum for that input is the quarterly Statewide Labor/ Management meeting.  I anticipate that the Standard Assignment will be on the next meeting agenda and stories of how it worked and ideas for improvement would be greatly appreciated and can be forwarded through any of your elected leadership.  Don’t be shy, this is the time to make this very good idea better.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Eclipse 2017, On Call or Standby

In less than a week, the path of Eclipse totality will pass across Oregon from the Coast to Idaho border, and many Department employees will have schedules and work duties changed to respond to possible emergencies.  As part of these changes “spiking out” staff with engines will be in the mix to put wildland firefighter resources close to where they are needed and not be hampered by possible traffic jams.

Standby or On Call duty pay may apply, know what your expectations are before you go.  As I am writing this Management is also looking at the same subject and will be offering guidance to local Supervisors.

From our Contract, Article 34 - Standby Duty/ On Call Duty

Section 1. Standby Duty.
  1. An employee shall be on standby duty when required to be available for work outside his/her normal working hours, and subject to restrictions consistent with the FLSA which would prevent the employee from using the time while on standby duty effectively for the employee’s own purposes

Pay for FLSA-eligible employee’s straight time rate of pay, or for FLSA-exempt hour for hour compensatory time off.

Section 2. On-Call Duty.
(b) An employee shall be assigned on-call duty when specifically required to be available     for work outside his/her working hours and not subject to restrictions which would prevent the employee from using the time while on-call effectively for the employee’s own purposes.

Employees shall be paid one hour of pay at the regular straight time rate for each six hours of assigned on-call duty.

From “Your Rights in the Workplace” 9th edition:
  • On call time that you are allowed to control and use for your own enjoyment or benefit is not counted as payable time.
  • On call time over which you have little or no control and which you cannot use for your own enjoyment or benefit is payable time.

Another way of looking at Standby/ On-Call is, are you waiting to be engaged which you do not get paid for, or engaged to wait which you do get paid for.

In advance of the Eclipse it will be important to know what the Department’s expectations are while you are spiked out, can you go swimming and carry your radio or do you need to wait in the engine’s cab.  Asking ahead will be better for everyone.