Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Forestry Good to Great

What a good year.

Going chronologically Doug Decker was selected State Forester, firefighters kept ‘em small, Stewardship Forester positions were reinstated, the State Forest revenue slide was less steep, and our contract was ratified. ODF’s front line firefighters deserve a special note because they kept the fires small when lightning struck day after day saving both Oregon’s Forests and fire fighting budget. For the second year in a row ODF did not deploy a full IMT to an Oregon wildfire suppression incident.

Getting to great

As good as the year was there are ways to improve and move towards great. These are my observations from Labor/ Management meetings and other sources that I see as the trends, opportunities, and awareness items for 2012 and in keeping with the season’s traditions here is my list:

Tents and field gear: Let’s get this solved and off the table. Incident lodging has been contentious ever since we moved into tents more than 10 years ago. During bargaining this year a collaborative approach was developed to address the issue and the committee that just met has my support in developing good recommendations for the Executive Committee.

Position descriptions: This year look at your PD during your annual review and make sure it describes what you are currently doing. We are all doing “more” but when that extra work adds responsibilities you may be eligible for additional compensation.

Physical fitness: For professional firefighters and others seeking to participate in the fire program the primary path to that work is through the Work Capacity Test. A level of fitness is needed to safely be part of a wildfire suppression team.

Professional organizations: Join them if you can, attend their meetings if allowed, just share ideas and bring new ones back. Maybe you will discover a way to improve operations.

Prepare for advancement: Look for the leadership opportunities where you work. One leadership opportunity is to become the Steward of your District. Currently there are openings and developing your leadership ability is part of the training. Ask a local officer or your organizer how to become one.

For 2012 find something you love doing and do it.

Best wishes

Dave Wells
Forestry Local 629 President

Friday, November 4, 2011

Keeping Our House in Order

I am excited that new leaders have come forth, and have been elected in their work sites to become Stewards. The Steward is not just a title it is an action position. It's knowing your co-workers and being able to provide suggestions when suggestions are needed to help them stay on track for effective and efficient performance at work. Oregon expects that of us.

At Wednesday's (11/2/2011) Labor/ Management meeting our Human Resource Director shared a concise list, in understandable terms, of these expectations. Just as LCES can save your life on the fire line, many personnel problems can be avoided using this list as a guide for your actions at work.

Come to work: Be on time, let your supervisor know if you are going to be late

Be nice: use the working guidelines, respect co-workers, maintain your professionalism

Bring a lunch: Lunches are un-paid 1/2 or 1 hour long, 2 paid breaks per day they cannot be combined, combined with lunch or taken at the end of the day, code your time correctly

Do your job: Know what the essential functions, assigned duties and expectations are

No drugs or alcohol: come fit for work, alert and with full personal protective equipment, we are a drug free workplace, if you have a CDL random drug testing is a federal requirement

Friday, September 23, 2011

Forestry Local Statewide Meeting - October 15, 2011

Our next Forestry Local Statewide meeting will be held October 15, 2011 from 0830 to 1200 at Outback Pizzeria (1059 NW Madras Hwy) in Prineville. For those who have fought fires in Central Oregon this is right next to/ behind the Brothers Family Restaurant that has provided firefighter meals to hungry ODF firefighters.

Some of the agenda items are, selecting labor representatives to the Firefighter Equipment Super-committee as negotiated in our recent contract, a discussion of our past fire season and ideas for labor/management discussions or contract revisions, and what the responsibilities of Stewards are and how do you become one. My recent experience is that more Stewards are needed in the Local.

A conference call number will be forthcoming by postcard for those who cannot attend in person. Mileage reimbursement at SEIU 503 rates, lodging (make arrangements as described on the postcard), breakfast (provided by Brothers) and a pizza buffet lunch will be provided by the Local.

For many this is the best time to visit Central Oregon (September 15 - October 31) as the weather is cool and crisp and fall colors vibrant. Please make plans to attend for the views and help with the operation of our Local.

Sunday, August 14, 2011

Oregon Forestry Elliott Forest Protest

As our Local President I applaud the Oregon Department of Forestry's commitment to provide a safe work environment for those on the Elliott State Forest and elsewhere during the Elliott's public review period. Fighting forest fires or managing forests can be hazardous enough and protest activity that compromises that safety or ability to protect Oregon's forests from wildfire cannot be condoned. Thank you for all the work you do to protect our forests from wildfire, maintain pure drinking water and fish supporting streams, assessing landslide risk to public safety, searching for Threatened and Endangered species and providing a timber commodity to Oregon's forest related industries.

Friday, July 1, 2011

Forestry Statewide Meeting/ Bargaining Confernce Both July 23, 2011

Our next Statewide Forestry Local meeting will be held the morning of July 23rd 2011 from 7:30 am to 10 am at the Doubletree Lloyd Center. The agenda is still being developed but at least one item will be to continue this Blog or move to a SEIU posting format. As always we will get together to inform, discuss and make decisions about the operations of our Local. A postcard notice should soon be in the mail providing registration instructions and phone number for those who cannot attend in person.

July 23rd is also the date for the next DAS/ OUS Bargaining Conference and not coincidentally starting at 10 am and also at the Doubletree. Important decisions will be made at this meeting about our contract and its ratification. Register to attend this conference with your Organizer or at the SEIU 503 website.

Perhaps now more than ever, in Unity
Dave Wells, Forestry Local 503 President

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Forestry Firefighters and Union Representation

Forest Firefighters working for the State of Oregon have the opportunity to be represented by SEIU 503. This is just like many of their structural counterparts who choose to be recognized by Unions of their choice. The important thing now is to join, have a say in what's going on, and add strength (in numbers) to a successful bargaining campaign. A fair wage, health insurance, and retirement bennifts are all more possible when more firefighters and your co-workers are members.

Borrowing from a car sales TV personallity "I can't save you any money if you don't come and see me today" for us it is more like "I don't have a chance of getting your fair wages and benifits if you don't join today"

SEIU Staff and worksite Stewards and contacts will be meeting with Forestry Firefighters, asking you to join, which I hope you will.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tentative Agreement Reached on Forestry Proposals

Management and Union reached agreements covering the Work Capacity Test, boot reimbursement and incident lodging just before midnight Monday, May 16th. These were the last of a set of proposals originally brought to the table in February. The final package (where proposals are considered together and not separately) was telling of the work done as management and union each had two proposals in the mix. Dave Wells commented "it's tough out there, but there are solutions, you just have to keep looking, there were no losers this time". Union membership will have the final say with a vote in these proposals tentatively agreed to.

Details of the Tentative Agreement:

Work Capacity Test: In general if you are a professional (non-strikeable) permanent or seasonal firefighter you are expected to take and pass the WCT unless a you are prevented from taking it for a medical reason. A medical certification option that attests to ability to preform the duties of a firefighter is available if you cannot take the WCT.

Other employees (strikeable) who seek to assist in firefighting efforts need to pass the WCT at the appropriate level or get a medical certification to work on a fire.

A $25 reimbursement is available for those needing a medical release or certification to assist in co-pays.

Boots: Contract would change to provide both boot repair and maintenance and the dollar reimbursement raised from $200 to $220 for permanent employees and from $100 to $110 for seasonal employees.

Incident Lodging and Equipment: A six person committee (3 management, 3 union) will be formed to provide recommendations to the Executive Team about the tents, sleeping bags, pads, and fire field packs that really meet firefigher needs. Reasonable fit and agency identity will be considered.

Next dates:

May 20th Rally at the Oregon State Capital, this is important to show Bargaining Team support towards a fair contract. 11:30 A, front steps

May 31: ODOT Bargaining continues, 5:30 P at ODOT Human Resources

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Real Work to Resolve Real Issues

"Whatever it Takes" must be within us at ODF. Last night bargaining started at about 6:00P and as others of the ODOT Coalition left to sleep, ODF Management and Labor representatives met to discuss the finer points of the Work Capacity Test finishing just after midnight. In an unusual move, Tom Perry from the Department of Administrative Services will take another look at the latest WCT language presented by Management and try to make it clearer that the Medical Certification option is available for strikeable and non-strikable employees that cannot take the WCT.

Very real work to resolve a real issue.

"Lodging" at incidents and fire duty packs is another real issue. We received an innovative idea from Management, create an ad-hoc committee to see what the needs really are from our fire fighting community. Labor looked at the idea and is preparing a counter proposal with ideas gathered from others in the ODOT Coalition to include action items. Any ideas of what should be on the list? Contact me or your organizer.

More very real work to resolve a real issue.

Bargaining continues on Monday, May 16, 2011 beginning at 5:30P at ODOT Human Resources and ending at "Whatever it Takes"

Another important date:

Rally at the State Capital on May 20th starting at 11:30A.

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

Work Capacity Test + Listening = Amazing

The first re-write of the Work Capacity Test's contract language is nearing it's conclusion. Management returned a proposal last night that incorporated firefighter safety and financial help when a medical certification is needed to take the WCT. These are the two issues identified when proposals were handed back and forth on March 1st.

Amazing describes the very real work that Management and the Union have done to find a solution that can be supported. Contact your organizer or me if you have questions about the specifics.

The ODOT Coalition meets next on May 2, 2011 starting at 5:30P at ODOT Human Resources in Salem.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Sustainable Jobs, Sustainable Forests

I grew up playing in the forest, I learned in the forest, and now I work in the forest.

Oregon's Stewardship Foresters help ensure that Oregon's forests will always provide the benefits of clean water, protection of wildlife habitat, and the continued growing of trees. When called they provide leadership in the suppression of wildfires. Sustainable forests for sustainable jobs it takes a dedicated group of forest professionals to make it happen.

For everyone else who will play, learn, and work in the forest.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Work Capacity Test Center of Attention

Bargaining on March 21 was a good warm-up for fire season when members and management came from all of ODF's Areas to work on the WCT.

At ODF in Salem we heard about why it should be changed:

Management's focus was on how the ability of few could effect the safety of many.
Union's focus was on how to remove the financial burden of obtaining a physician's medical release when needed to take the WCT.

It is now up to the Union (us) to prepare a counter proposal, promised to Management at our next meeting on April 4th at 5:30P, ODOT Human Resources in Salem.

Reading the tea leaves, it's time to start your conditioning program for the WCT.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Lobby Day Connects

We met Legislators who are supportive and good listeners at the Capitol on 3/17. To quote Rep. Bob Jenson "it's pretty tough times" but also provided hope in what is budgeted for Natural Resource agencies.

For specifics HB 2123 that would allow the Department to provide legal protection to firefighters alleged to have committed a crime in the course of fire suppression activities passed out of Committee with amendments. The first step in the long journey to become a law.

Bargaining will be no less of a journey.

We bargain next on Monday night 3/21 starting at 5:30P at ODF Salem Headquarters. The work capacity test is on the agenda.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Central Oregon Firefighters Take a Bow

Last night a tentative agreement was reached that will allow seasonal employees not currently employed to apply for Agency internal promotions. Certain conditions apply. This is how bargaining is supposed to work, identify a problem or need, communicate a solution, and then bargain towards it. Thanks for bringing it forward Central Oregon Firefighters.

Next bargaining meeting is Monday, March 21 at ODF Headquarters in Salem where the Work Capacity Test will be a focus. Dinner at 5:30pm, bargaining at 6:30pm, Tillamook and Clatsop rooms.

Future bargaining dates: April 4, April 18

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

All Proposals In

Finally an opening to change the Work Capacity Test. Last night union and management traded WCT proposals. Union's focus to have physician co-pays paid; Management's focus to remove the physician note option when the WCT cannot be physically "passed". What do you think?

This will be a focus of bargaining on March 21st when we meet at ODF headquarters in Salem. The meeting starts at 5:30P. Being present to listen, think, share and decide will be important.

Next ODOT coalition bargaining is March 7 starting at 5:30P at ODOT Human Resource Center in Salem.

Saturday, February 19, 2011

Foresters You've Got to Talk More Than Trees

At our statewide meeting we reviewed bills about Forestry in Oregon. They went from cut more trees to create conservation areas, protect forestry firefighters from alleged criminal charges to limit expenditures from the Oregon Forest Land Protection Fund. What does that mean to you?

You don't need a tent to make a political statement but you do need to participate in our Lobby Day for Natural Resource Agencies on March 17th, contact your organizer for more details. The Local will pay for your companion's part of lodging if needed, we're family friendly.

Other dates: Coalition bargaining February 28, March 7, March 21

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Possibility Thinking, Problem Solvivg Stewards Wanted

Efficiencies and change that works will be needed to give Oregon's forests the protections expected from Oregonians. Stewards are needed to help grow the ideas of empowered co-workers to feel secure and share what they know. Becoming a Steward is a great way to grow your own leadership skills. Ask our Statewide coordinator Lisa or me how to become one.

See you at the next Statewide Forestry meeting February 19, 10am, Portland Field Office.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Encouraging leadership, safety, fairness and recognizing success

It felt like bargaining had started as Forestry met with others in the ODOT coalition to craft contract proposals for the 2011/ 13 contract on January 15th. Leadership, success, safety and fairness all themes to weave words around in a period of change and opportunity. See what our proposals look like at the Bargaining Conference, January 30th.

Other dates of note:

Purple up on January 25th
ODOT Coalition bargaining February 7th
Forestry Local statewide meeting in Portland, February 19th
ODOT Coalition bargaining February 28th