Sunday, August 14, 2016

Will Bennett, General Council Observations

Will Bennett attended SEIU 503 General Council (GC) as one of the three delegates that Forestry is allowed.  GC is the supreme governing body of our Union and was held between August 4-6 at the Linn County Fairgrounds in Albany.  Being able to attend is allowed for all delegates by Contract but in reality it is difficult for Forestry to field a full delegation due to wildfire activity or readiness so it was great that Will made some time available to participate.

Being his first GC, it was interesting listening to his observations, like when Oregon Governor Kate Brown arrived “didn’t realize that this was such a big deal that a Governor would show up”.  Within the three GC days the direction of our Union is decided along with the budget to fund that direction.  There is a lot of talking and sometimes ideas are presented at the last minute.  Even though the meeting is run using parliamentary procedure that can take a awhile to get the work completed to which Will commented “no fights or protests, just orderly discussion, (delegates) heard things through even if it didn’t make sense”.

Out of the meeting often comes an increased sense of involvement and a recognition that our Union is run by the members who show up.  With Union operations on display it is easier to see where one might want to get involved.  Will saw that and ended with “looking forward to getting more involved and seeing what committees are open”.    

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Why Should I Become a Steward

I was fortunate to meet with Salem Forestry employees on Thursday, July 14th to talk about what it is like to be a Steward.  Currently Salem does not have a Steward and my goal was to share some of my experiances and encourage someone to step forward and offer there candicy to the group.  Stewards are elected by their peers.

Being a Steward is a giving, listening and helping position but you get something from it too.  You will develop your leadership, listening and communication skills.  You will improve your creativity, problem solving skills and self esteem.  You might even learn how to develop a good arguement and negotiate better.  Lower car prices anyone?

Sometimes I wonder why we need Stewards, nobody wakes up with a plan to be diciplined.  In my representative experiance, sometimes things just happen, at the wrong time.  Like during the emotional strains of a divorce and that accidental snap at a co-worker or supervisor. What about the comment to a Legislator that was mis-interpreted? Have you made a meaningful keystroke upon arrival at your work station?  There are lots of things, too helpful with the public or field staff, just not getting along with your supervisor or your car broke down, twice.  Being a Steward puts you in a position to help your co-workers when they need it most.

How do I become a Steward and is there training available? To become a Steward you need to be elected by your peers.  The election starts with a public announcement of the vote including time and place posted in a public space like the Union Bulletin Board at least 10 calendar prior to the meeting.  Prior to the election a announcement is made to see if there are other candidates and then the electioins is held.  Additional information is in the November 1, 2014 Forestry629 blog post.  And yes there is training available.   SEIU 503 regularly offers training and there is support from the Member Resource Center.

I hope this answers a few questions about what is, how and why to become a Steward and interests you enough to seek the position or ask additional questions, my phone number is listed in the margin.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

Locals to Chapters, It's Resolution Time at General Council

General Counsel is the supreme governing body of our Union and generally it held every two years.  This year it runs from Wednesday, August 3rd to Saturday, August 6th and will be in Albany at the Linn County Fairgrounds.  It is where our budget is decided, policy is set, and Union operations affirmed or changed.

Our Local submitted a Resolution to increase the diversity of training opportunities for Stewards located outside of the I5 corridor.  Following consultation with your President that Resolution was incorporated into a similar Resolution that had been drafted by the Stewards Committee.  If passed out of Committee and receiving a favorable vote by the General Council it will be how our Union will operate.

There is another Resolution that would change how Forestry is referred to within our Union from Forestry Sub-local 629 to Forestry Chapter.  The thought is that there is more of allegiance   to Forestry Sub-local 629 than to SEIU Local 503,OPEU and that needs to be changed.  I would like to hear your thoughts on this as I am planning on representing your views at our General Council.  Below is the full wording of the Resolution which can also be found on the SEIU 503 website

Service Employees International Union
Local 503,
Oregon Public Employees Union
Bylaws (BL #1)
1 Subject: Amend Bylaws Article IV – LOCALS; change “Locals” to “Chapters”
2 Submitted by: Board of Directors
3 Authored by: Committee for the Future members Catherine Stearns, Greg Ledbetter,
4 Latricia Straw
6 WHEREAS, the Committee for the Future was established by the 2014 General Council
7 to evaluate the threats and challenges we face and find ways for our union to innovate
8 and adapt; and
10 WHEREAS, it is in the best interest of members to maintain a unified identity in the face
11 of the challenges we face; and
13 WHEREAS, the Committee for the Future determined that referring to sub-components
14 of our Union as “Locals” with their own additional local number creates confusion for
15 members, employers and allies, distances members from SEIU Local 503, and
16 encourages a harmful “third-partying” within the Union; and
18 WHEREAS, there is already a long-standing practice of referring to locals as
19 “sublocals;” and
21 WHEREAS, the Committee for the Future recognizes the value and the strength of
22 organizing ourselves internally into distinct sub-components charged with building
23 membership, representing workers through bargaining and contract enforcement, and
24 engaging workers in issue campaigns; and
26 WHEREAS, there is confusion among different sets of members who often do not
27 realize they are in the same union as members who work for different employers and
28 others may think they are members of different unions (i.e. “I’m a member of Local 735”,
29 or “I’m a member of Local 99”), rather than being part of SEIU Local 503 with distinct
30 sub-components; and
32 WHEREAS, Bylaws, Article IV, defines Locals as sub-components of the Union; and
34 WHEREAS, naming sub-components of the Union after the name of their agency or
35 work group would maintain work group/bargaining unit identity while also creating a
36 more unified, statewide identity (i.e. “I’m a member of SEIU Local 503 – DMV
37 Workers” or “I’m a member SEIU Local 503 – Homecare Workers); now, therefore,
39 BE IT RESOLVED by the General Council of SEIU Local 503, OPEU: That the
40 word “Local” – as defined in Bylaws Article IV – shall be replaced by “Chapter,” and

41 any reference in the Bylaws to “Local” or “Locals” as defined by Bylaws Article IV shall
42 be replaced by ”Chapter” or “Chapters.”
44 BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED by the General Council of SEIU Local 503, OPEU:
45 These Chapters shall determine a new name that is a sub-component of 503 and adheres
46 to the following structure: SEIU Local 503 – [bargaining unit, agency or workgroup)

Friday, June 17, 2016

NEO is for New Employee Orientation

This is New Employee Orientation season, for wildland firefighters with the Oregon Department of Forestry.  As part of that orientation along with getting your fireline gear and signing up for health insurance remember to sign up as a member with your own professional firefighting union, SEIU 503.  That gear and health insurance that you will use is all because members, as I hope you will become, took time to negotiate them.  There was a time when line gear didn't fit and tents and sleeping bags just covered most of the body.  That all changed when a special committee was established to see what the general standards of gear was and options available for the Department to supply them.  The quality gear that you use today, directly came out of the Committee's recommendation's.

Membership helps support benefits like health insurance and reasonable pay for the important work you do protecting Oregon's Forests from wildfire.  Please join at NEO or contact a Local Officer or Mike Bray of SEIU 503 staff organizer to find out how.

Friday, May 27, 2016

Recognising Your Extra Effort During Wildfire Season

These past three fire seasons in Oregon have been tough. Away from home, stepping up to fill in, long hours, maintaining a state of readiness, making sure operations continue unabated and so much more.  The efforts have not gone un-noticed by our Executives with unprecedented recognition days in the past two years.  I thought it would be a good time to provide a reminder of the regular ways you might be recognized.

Work Out-of-Classification (Article 26), states when an employee is assigned to perform the duties of a position in a higher level classification for more than 10 consecutive calendar days, the employee shall be paid 5% above the employee’s base pay rate of pay or the first step of the higher salary range, whichever is higher.  There is more.

Travel Policy (Travel Expense, Article 36.3 A, C), states if an employee is absent from his/her official station and traveling to the fire or other emergency site and stops for a commercially prepared meal, he/she will receive a meal allowance consistent with …. DAS Travel Policy.  There is more.

Standby Duty/ On-Call Duty (Article 34), standby duty is when an employee is 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 at straight time rate of pay. There is more
On-Call, is when an employee is 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. Pay at 1 hour of straight time for each 6 hours of assigned on-call duty.  There is more

These are examples of our negotiated Contract language that recognizes your contribution, direct and indirect, to keeping Oregon’s Forests green.  For more information contact your Steward, Member Resource Center, elected leadership or our Statewide Organizer, Mike Bray.  Be Safe.

Tuesday, May 10, 2016

Forestry Statewide, April 30th Discussions and Decisions

The Forestry Local held its spring Statewide meeting April 30th in Salem to count election ballots, set goals and make decisions.

The President’s Message focused on saying what you really want, not what you think is possible and then making it happen.  What I really want is employment stability for my State Forest co-workers and a forest that provides sustainable environmental, economic and social benifits.  This is Oregon and we can do things differently if they are not working, and with the State Forest budget heading towards a zero balance in four years, things are not working.  I think there is a different funding way, and I’m going need your help to make it happen.  More later.

Ballots were counted by Jim Neuman, outgoing Treasurer and Mike Bray, SEIU 503 Forestry Staff Organizer.  The large sealed envelope had some real heft, and a thank you to everyone who took the time to vote.  Your new elected officers will serve a two year term and represent your interests at Labor/ Management and at SEIU 503’s General Council.

Decisions made:

Recognizing outgoing officers Brandon Ferguson and Jim Neuman each with a $50 gift certificate.

Dave Wells and Will Bennett were both authorized for up to 5 days of travel (mileage, meals, lodging) to promote membership growth and representation.

Will Bennett is planning on bringing pizza to the Seasonal Meeting at Columbia City on June 13th.

The purchase of 250 insulated (steel) mugs with our Local Logo was approved.

A General Council Resolution (like a law proposal) was drafted and submitted that will charge the Stewards Committee with the creation of training opportunities for Stewards in “remote” locations.  Currently most training is held in Portland, Salem or Eugene and travel can create a hardship for some and a barrier to becoming a Steward that needs to be removed. Thank Will Bennett for the idea.

Next Statewide meeting is October 15, 2016 in The Dalles.  There will be a phone in option.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Forestry Local Leadership All Positions Filled

Seclection of the SEIU 503 OPEU, Forestry Local 629 Leadership for 2016 - 2018 is now complete.  Your Local leaders are as follows:

President: David Wells
Vice President: William Bennett
Secretary: Robert Millam
Treasurer: Dana Tenold

The President, Vice Presidnet and Secretary are our delegates to General Council. Our Statewide Labor/Management committee is made of three members and an alternate so all of your Leadership is generally invited to participate.

A thank you to all those who voted, those accepting a leadership position and outgoing members Brandon Ferguson and Jim Neuman.