Friday, May 12, 2017

Essential Firefighting Personnel

To be an effective wildland fire/ all hazards response organization who and what duties are essential in the 21st century.  This was a topic at our most recent Labor/ Management meeting (essential firefighting personnel) and will be revisited on May 22nd when a committee meets to see if Police and Fire retirement benefits should be extended beyond the current designated job classifications and Incident Command System (ICS) positions.

The question of who these personnel are and how to recognize their contributions is difficult, more so when you go beyond the traditional on the ground firefighter and those who provide direct supervision and organizational control.  Urban police and fire personnel are certainly not as efficient when not supported by 911 dispatchers and fire chiefs.

One part of this recognition is to be included in the Police and Fire Retirement (P&F) benefit pool. Forestry wildland firefighters were not recognized as being firefighters until the 1990’s when a legislative solution to a lawsuit brought by Jesse Backman was signed into law giving the State Forester the ability to designate those eligible to receive Police and Fire Retirement benefits.  At that time non-strikeable firefighting position classifications (12 month benefit) and those ICS positions (5 month benefit - a typical fire season) associated directly with firefighting operations and those where there was a ladder from firefighting to direct supervisory or select command and general staff positions were included.  The only change I know of from the original designation is that Forest Inmate Crew Coordinators now receive P&F benefits for 12 months in recognition of their availability to respond to all hazard emergencies year around.

If you think that you are one of the Department’s essential firefighting personnel and should receive P&F benefits in recognition for your contributions please let me know, especially before May 22nd.  I would really like to hear your story and reasons.

Friday, April 14, 2017

Agenda, Forestry Local Statewide Meeting, April 29, 2017

Forestry Sub-Local members are invited to our Statewide meeting on April 29, 2017 at SEIU Headquarters in Salem.  The meeting will start at 10:00 am and conclude at 2:00 pm. For those who want to hear what's going and are unable to attend a call-in number for the first hour of the meeting is available from Mike Bray.

Please pre-register at the following location to ensure a good lunch count and secure lodging if needed:  https://fastfor.ms/792B0   Mileage will be reimbursed according to Local procedures.

Agenda:
Welcome and Introductions
President’s Message
Bargaining Update, Noel Magee, ODOT Coalition Bargaining Team Member
Financial Report
Membership concerns
Bargaining ideas, idea of a “parking lot” how to submit bargaining ideas
Labor/ Management Meeting - Agenda Items
Results of Corporate Vote
Statewide Forestry, organizing plan to be ready for bargaining in two years
Forestry Budget: hiring freeze, futuring
Good of the order
Distribution of promotional items (t-shirts, possibly a buckle drawing)
Next meeting
Reimbursement requests

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Just Because You Can Is It a Good Idea To Do It?

In the last two days I have heard stories of supervisors making sweeping changes in their employee's work duties.

Just because you can is it a good idea to do it?

Our Contract is clear that the Employer (represented by your Supervisor) has specific rights under Article 9. Management rights which are:
  1. Direct employees
  2. Hire, promote, transfer, assign, and retain employees
  3. Suspend, discharge, or take other proper disciplinary action against employees
  4. Reassign employees
  5. Relieve employees from duty because of lack of work or other reasons
  6. Schedule work
  7. Determine methods, means, and personnel by which operations are to be conducted

As a represented employee it is not so much that these rights are implemented but rather how they are implemented.  There is nothing in our Contract that talks about advance notice of these changes (except work schedules), but to have a change made without prior notice just does not seem to value the employee and the contributions they can make to the Department.  I don’t know if what I have heard about are isolated instances limited to one or two supervisors or something more systemic.

That is the purpose of this post to ask if there are more employees who have had complete changes to their work duties and how these changes were implemented.  Generally I believe there has been discussion, where employees can share their strengths and interests and what they can bring to the Department.  If this is the start of a change how we do things I would like to know, for possible inclusion at Labor/ Management.  The L/M agenda is jointly developed and depending on what I hear it would be a good idea to talk about it.   

Sunday, April 2, 2017

Forestry Statewide Meeting, April 29th

The next Forestry Sub-Local 629 Statewide meeting will be Saturday, April 29th beginning at 10:00 am at SEIU Headquarters in Salem.  Noel Magee, ODOT Coalition Central Bargaining Team member has confirmed that he will be at our meeting to provide a bargaining update.  We are currently in the two year wage and benefit re-opener of a four year contract that was negotiated in 2015.  Initial Union and State proposals are quite different and it will be good to hear from someone at the negotiating table to see what type of bargaining year we are in for.  Noel works for the Oregon Department of Fish and Wildlife and with Mike Scott, ODOT, are our two bargaining representatives. The ODOT Coalition includes the Department of Forestry, Department of Transportation, State Parks and Recreation, Fish and Wildlife, Department of Motor Vehicles and Department of Aviation.

If you have other agenda items for discussion please forward them though any of your elected officers or Mike Bray, our Forestry sub-local statewide coordinator.

SEIU 503 Headquarters is located at 1730 Commercial Street SE, Salem, Oregon.

Friday, March 3, 2017

To the Oregon Ways and Means Committee

Thank you for coming to Tillamook.  My name is Dave Wells, I’m the president of the Forestry sub-Local SEIU 503.

I see choices ahead. Proposed reductions in funding for Stewardship Forester and Wildland Firefighting programs is a threat to our forests and more.  The choice as I see it is how increase revenue to make sure that does not happen.

Last year I saw a wildfire in Lane County that burned through acres of 15 year old trees.  All that these burned trees add to our Oregon is a tax loss and we won’t see the future benefit of living wage jobs and harvest taxes that support our schools and rural communities like Tillamook where I live.  Not every forest fire can be stopped but without an adequately staffed, fully functioning and coordinated wildfire fighting system the chance of the next big one becomes more real.  It is raining now but there always be an August, that’s when the Tillamook Burn started.

In Oregon we are connected to our forests. Sometimes they are in our back yard, sometimes we connect through our faucets at home.  Wisely in 1971 Oregon enacted the first in the nation Forest Practices Act because that connection between what we thought should be happening in our forests and what was happening was broken.  Our Stewardship Foresters work to prevent a rip from starting by ensuring timely reforestation and that water is clean by enforcing road maintenance and buffer strip requirements. Keep Oregon’s forest connection secure by maintaining Stewardship Foresters at their current staffing level.

It is all about choices, clean water, wildlife, and rural jobs.  I ask you to make the choice to increase revenue and keep Oregon green.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Do I Become a Steward?

A Steward is one of the most important positions within our Organizing Model Union. Instead of a Union Staff Person you as Steward are the face of our Union in the workplace. You, as a co-worker become the go to person for contract questions and, when needed, representation when a co-worker faces disciplinary action.  Less spoken about are the leadership and problem solving abilities you bring to the workplace.  Because you are in the workplace you may be able guide a co-worker going the wrong way and avoid supervisor to employee discipline.

How do I become a Steward?  Basically if you are going to be the employee leader, you need to be elected by the employees that you will lead.  At our October 2014 Statewide meeting in The Dalles our Bylaws were changed to be clear on this, also adding language on training and possible removal.  Below is the wording from our by-laws and if you have questions your elected Statewide Forestry leadership or SEIU 503 Forestry Local organizer Mike Bray can provide guidance.
From the November 1, 2014 Forestry629 blog post:

Change in By-Laws, How Stewards Are Chosen and How They Can Be Removed: Our By-Laws, last revised in 2012, did not have much about Stewards which these changes should correct.  The proposal was discussed, changed, adopted and is presented here:

Section 4. Union Stewards.  Union Stewards shall attend steward meetings; handle grievances through the steps within the agency; work closely with the Union Organizer in the handling and investigation of grievances; serve as a main communication channel between Union leaders and staff; is a primary provider of direct services to the Local members.

Stewards will be chosen from the work unit they seek to represent as defined by the collective bargaining agreement between SEIU 503 and the State of Oregon.  The nominee must be a union member and the work unit have an un-filled Steward position available. An announcement of the Steward election shall be posted for at least 10 calendar days, in a public place like the Union Bulletin Board specifying the candidate's name and date and time of the
election.  At the time of the election, prior to voting, there will be a call for other candidates and the voting will be by secret ballot.

The newly selected Steward shall inform the Forestry Local President and SEIU 503 Statewide Forestry Organizer of their selection and meet training requirements as set forth in SEIU 503 by-laws within one calendar year.

Stewards may only be removed from their position by the Local's elected leadership following this process.  Five members who are represented by Steward may petition the Local's leadership to remove their Steward.  Local leadership will consider the petitioner's request using the following criteria:
Stewards activity in the Local; if training requirements were met and if there was continued training; and the testimony of the petitioners and Steward.  Steward removal requires an affirmative vote to remove by at least three members of the Local's Statewide Officers.

Sitting Stewards are encouraged to re-establish their position on a season by season basis.

Representation When a Steward is Not Available:  The primary source for employee representation in the workplace is the Steward.  When a Steward is not available the person seeking representation should contact the next closest (adjacent) District and failing that the SEIU 503 Member Resource Center. If a Steward cannot be identified the Vice President should be contacted.

Tuesday, January 24, 2017

Forestry Sub-local Agenda 2/4/2017

Below is the DRAFT agenda for the Forestry Sub-local Statewide meeting in Eugene on February 4, 2017.

Forestry Sub-Local 629 Statewide Meeting
February 4, 2017, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm
SEIU 503 Eugene, 488 E. 11th Ave, Suite 200, Eugene
Call in between 10:00 am and 11:00 am, more information contact your officers or Mike Bray
Please register by January 31st to make sure enough food is avialable at: https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSe3whwjHfJumpz2NV1Hu0nekdmMity1YCWVddgZ_pZnW9NDRg/viewform?c=0&w=1

Tentative Agenda:
Welcome and introductions
Agenda changes, acceptance
President's message: The Rules We Play By
State Forester, Peter Daugherty
State Forest Lawsuit, Should our Local take a position, what?
Elliot State Forest, update, rumor control, comment to Oregon State Land Board?
Tree Falling Committee, update and recommendations
Incident Management Rest, update
Bargaining 2017, Bargaining Conference Report
Lobby Day, when and participation
Employee cost savings suggestions to Agency
Labor/ Management agenda items, who will develop and present
Resolution to be family friendly, lodging
Promotional item purchase? Distribution of hats and mugs
Next meeting
Good of the order
Mileage reimbursement forms, safe travels