Saturday, December 24, 2016

Barganing Ahead in 2017

After the Holidays it will be time to get back to work as bargaining for our wages and benefits will resume in 2017.  In 2015 we bargained a four year contract that holds many of our Contact Articles in place until bargaining begins for the 2019 Contract. For instance this time around we will not be negotiating our boot allowance or conditions of the work capacity test.  What was negotiated was a 2017 Contract re-opener on wages, benefits and one non economic issue.  Timeline to have all this completed is June 30th.

More (optimistically) in wages, more in benefits or what balance between the two is what your Bargaining Team will need to know. Watch for a bargaining survey or if you want to get more involved come to the Bargaining Conference on January 28th at Clackamas Community College (link below). This is the start of negotiations at the bargaining table, actions for a fair settlement and your ultimate decision and vote on the agreement.

Other dates: Forestry Local Statewide meeting in Eugene on February 4th.

Thursday, December 8, 2016

Be Thankful for Rest and Recovery

Department policy on Incident Management Rest and Rest and Recovery was released to employees in December.  For Seasonal and other employees who may not have seen the Department e-mail here are the changes recognizing the need to mitigate the fatigue associated with incident response.  The Policy discussion began at the bargaining table in 2015 but that venue did not allow enough time to really develop the Department buy in and work through the complexity of what looks to be a fair solution to rest after long days (and nights) working on an incident.

Some Definitions:
Standard Assignment (new): 14 consecutive days working 12 hours per day while assigned to and at an incident.  Travel time to and from the home unit shall not count toward the standard assignment.

Incident Management Rest (new): A 24-hour rest period when the agency relieves the department employee of all duties, and the incident they were assigned to on day 14 pays them eight hours of straight time.

Rest and Recovery: A 24-hour rest period when the agency relieves the department employee of all duties, and the incident they were assigned to on day 21 pays them eight hours of straight time.

Application and Procedures (for actual wording see Standard Assignment Procedure document):

Incident Management Rest is a new rest period associated with the Standard Assignment.  When an employee completes a Standard Assignment they shall receive a 24 hour rest period and be paid for eight hours of straight time.  The purpose is to mitigate fatigue and insure incident readiness. A question from the past has been what about a regularly scheduled day off, which has been answered that the rest period will still occur and the employee will be paid the eight hours of straight time.

Rest and Recovery is in addition to Incident Management Rest and is in our Contact as Article 60.3C.  Employees who are away from their work station for 21 consecutive days including travel time when they return to their station shall receive 24 hours off and eight hours of pay at straight time.

Within the Procedure document there is an exception process and additional time entry information.  The actual document should be consulted before actual application.  Coming in the holiday season the Department’s completion and sharing of the new rest period is something to be thankful for even though that gratification may be delayed until we get back into Fire Season.

Sunday, November 20, 2016

“Who Else Needs to Know”

I recently received a phone call about a worksite issue, that I was unaware of and filed a grievance that hopefully will result in a fair and just outcome.  The employees had requested a resolution but were unsuccessful.  That afternoon it occurred to me that employees are like planes up in the sky going from place to place. No one will ever know if they hit turbulence unless they radio and tell someone.  Others can learn from what goes on up there, or in the workplace.

“Who Else Needs to Know” was one of the lessons learned at an IMT meeting many years ago. As a Team we embraced the concept which made us a very effective and efficient fire fighting force.  Bits of information known by one Section can only help if shared.

If there is a worksite issue, someone needs to know.  Part of that is seeking a resolution that will allow you and Department to succeed.  The other is seeing if it isolated or happening other places.  If there is a contract violation share it, starting with your Steward. If you don't have a Steward contact our Member Resource Center and after that your elected Local’s leadership.  Many worksite issues can be solved when good listening and communication skills are applied but if there is a problem that talking needs to start.

Saturday, November 19, 2016

Local Logo Caps Available in December

Caps with our Local’s Logo will be available beginning in early December.  Distribution channels have not been set but they should be available from your leadership and from our SEIU 503 Statewide organizer, Mike Bray.  They are “unstructured” in a putty color and look very cool.

If you don’t pick one up, a supply will be reserved for our Statewide Local Meeting in Eugene on February 4th and you can get one there.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Getting to Know Our New State Forester, Peter Daugherty

Following Peter’s self introduction at our last Labor/ Management meeting it left me with little doubt why the Private Forests Program has never built into a Union stronghold, they had a leader who values integrity, equity and has strong listening skills.

These are the skills I work to develop in our Stewards.

On the job as State Forester for about a month, Peter, showed that he has a sense of humour and vision forward for the Department.  He described himself as a “straightforward communicator” and that “you will know my position and why”.  That may sound harsh, but beneath that is an openness to listen to everyone to shape policy, provided it complies with statute.  This is how we work in the Public Sector, where Peter has spent his entire career.

Strategic in nature he is thinking about the Department’s needs five years from now. What will Oregon’s diversity look like and how will the Department reflect that. What services will be expected and how to provide them without overwhelming staff.  What training is needed to prepare employees.  He shared his support for the Protection from Fire Program and his view of the future looked like it was taken out of the line building section of the Fireline Handbook. You don’t build the line where the fire is, you put it where it is going to be.

A month on the job is not very long but Peter said he plans to get out and visit the Districts and will be our guest at our next Statewide Forestry meeting in Eugene on February 4, 2017.

SAVE THE DATE: Forestry Local Statewide meeting February 4, 2017 in Eugene.

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Forestry Local Fields Member Concerns in The Dalles

Member concerns and developing Labor/ Management discussion items were the big topics when the Forestry Local held its Fall Statewide meeting in The Dalles on October 22nd.

Often these two topics crossed paths and those that will be addressed at the Labor/ Management on October 27th will be presented in the jointly prepared agenda, but there are others outside the privy of the committee that will be worked on by the membership.

Dogs in the workplace.  Everybody agreed that driving in a rig that smells of wet dog covered with hair is unacceptable but there is a place for a dog to accompany field workers.  Using a Forest Service developed agreement as a model, management will be approached to see if Department needs and employee desires can both be met.

Selection of Stewards.  The election of a Steward to represent a group of workers should be taken seriously and reflect the desire (vote) of a majority of the represented members.  Two years ago the Local changed its bylaws to clarify the selection, notification of leadership and training requirements.  The process to remove a Steward is also documented.  Stewards are needed within the Local and if you know of someone who is considering taking on the role or interested yourself you are invited to call your Local President, Dave Wells for more information.

Salary steps.  Many in Forestry have reached or are reaching their top salary step in their range.  Bargaining will likely begin in December 2016 or January 2017 on the wage and benefit contract re-opener and it is time to start thinking about what you think is important and fair.

Layoff of seasonals.  The notice of the end of the season for Seasonal employees has been negotiated and is documented in Contract Article 71, Section 4.  From the contract “A seasonal employee shall be given at least ten calendar days advance notice of end of the season…..”.  This is notification is fair, just, negotiated, written and grievable.

Other business items were the selection of Local promotional items, hats and on-the-go charging kits with our logo.

All of your elected leadership and other members were at our meeting making for a very informative and productive time.  Our next meeting is planned for February 2017 with the date and location to be determined when our new State Forester, Peter Daugherty (invited) can address the group.

Friday, October 14, 2016

Two and Four Leggers Team Up on Tiger Thin

Forestry Local employees began work with their Forest Service counterparts on Tiger Thin in the Siuslaw National Forest on Tuesday, October 11th as part of a special cooperative project to prepare a timber sale. It was a real welcome surprise when Eric from the Forest Service showed up with his black and chocolate labs that joined us in the woods.  Working along Wildcat Road on Tiger Thin the accompaniment was especially welcome.  The greatest obvious threats were salmonberry thorns and “boomer” (mountain beaver) holes, but it was nice to know that our dog friends, with all of their senses, were along to alert us to other dangers.  Currently Forestry Local employees are prohibited from bringing their dogs to work. Working with Forest Service employees who are allowed to bring their dogs with them was an example where Agencies and species can work across borders to achieve a common goal.

If you are interested in renewing the “bring your dog to work” discussion please contact any of your elected Forestry Local leadership or better yet join us in in person or during the call-in hour (10-11 am) at the Forestry Local Statewide meeting in The Dalles on Saturday, October 22nd.  

Sunday, September 11, 2016

Forestry Sub-local 629 Statewide Meeting, October 22nd

Our next Forestry Sub-local Statewide meeting will be October 22nd in The Dalles.  The plan is to meet from 10:00 am to 2:00pm to allow morning travel time for those coming from Central Oregon, lodging will available for those that would have to leave before 7:00am.  Tentatively our meeting spot is Cousins.

Please save the date and if you have agenda items share them with any of the Local officers or Mike Bray our SEIU 503 Statewide Forestry Organizer.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Our Place in America’s Imagination

Where are we going, what is in our imagination, who will make it happen.  Employees of Forestry Local 629 you are on the leading edge.

In the American psyche there has always been something over the horizon, and there is today too.  In the 1840’s it was the United States, a seafaring nation, and fleets of ships making us a powerful force of commerce.  In “Two Years Before the Mast” by Richard Henry Dana, Jr. he shares his first hand account of howling southeasters as they rounded The Horn. Fifty years later in 1888 it was the west, as recounted in Theodore Roosevelt’s “Ranch-Life and the Hunting Trail”.  For me it was “Space the Final Frontier” and moon landings.

Today global warming, is our challenge to solve and forestry is at the leading edge of that solution.  Forest practices and wildfire suppression go hand in hand on preventing carbon emissions from wildfires and sequestering that carbon for sustainable and renewable buildings.  In doing what you do you are part of the global warming solution.  

Why as labor, should it be talked about?  It is because there will be long hours under difficult circumstances and it is important that simple privileges and recognition of your contributions be noted. It will be tough but those at the front have always had to pull a little bit harder.

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.

Sunday, May 1, 2016

2016-18 Local Officers Elected

Forestry Local Officers for 2016-18 are:

President: David Wells
Vice President: William Bennett
Secretary: to be determined
Treasurer: Dana Tenold

Votes were counted at our Forestry Statewide meeting, yesterday, April 30th in Salem.  A thank you to all those who voted and have agreed to serve as Local Officers. Announcement of the Secretary position is holding on acceptance of the individual who received the greatest number of write in votes.

Friday, April 22, 2016

Forestry Local OODA, Our Work, Our Brand

Observe, Orient, Decide, Act (OODA) is what we in Forestry are very good at.  Doug Decker, Oregon State Forester referred to it at a recent Public Information Officer meeting saying “Our brand is the extra energy you apply”.  Tyler on the Niagara Fire near Detroit Dam knew it when he observed a 10’ by 10’ fire spot across the line and called for three heavy helicopters to suppress it, stopping its spread at about an acre. I am sure there are many other examples.

These are the stories to share, about the great work you do suppressing wildfires in Oregon.

OODA also applies to how you are treated at work.  Is it clear what your responsibilities are?  Do you know your schedule?  What about responding to an incident off District? If you do not understand ask questions, ask your Steward, ask the Member Resource Center, ask your elected leadership.  As Decker observed it is the extra energy that you put into everyday work that is our brand and what we are known for across the Nation and around the World.  If there are barriers to your success or safety that let’s take care of them so you can do your best this coming fire season and the rest of the year.

The Forestry Local is having its spring Statewide Meeting on Saturday, April 30th at SEIU 503 Headquarters in Salem from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm.  It would be great to hear your OODA stories in person or during the call in hour from 10:00 to 11:00 am.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Elections, Statewide Meeting - Important Date Reminder

This is a reminder of two dates rapidly approaching:

Forestry Local election ballots need to be received by 5:00 pm Friday, April 22nd.

Forestry Local Statewide meeting is Saturday, April 30th from 10:00 am to 2:00 pm in Salem at SEIU 503 Headquarters

Consider participating in both of these opportunities to express your thoughts on the operations of your Local and becoming a participant guiding its direction.  Ballot counters are needed.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Forestry Statewide Meeting and Other Dates

Our Spring Forestry Local Statewide meeting will be Saturday, April 30th from 10:00am to 2:00pm at SEIU 503 Headquarters in Salem.  From 10 to 11 will be a call in period for those who cannot attend in person.  For the call-in number contact Mike Bray our SEIU Staff Organizer or Dave Wells your Local President.  Agenda items already proposed are ballot counting and announcement of election results, a financial report, review of our Labor/ Management meeting, General Council resolutions to review and submit and Local mug distribution and purchase of additional items. Please register if you are planning on attending so we can get an accurate lunch order:

Other dates and events:

SEIU 503's Shaping or Future Leadership Summit is Saturday, April 16th and registration and more information can be found at:

Forestry Leadership election ballots need to be received by April 22nd at 5:00pm.

Forestry Labor/Management meeting, April 26 in Salem.  Agenda items can be submitted to any of your Local's leadership.

General Counsel Resolutions due May 1st to meet submission deadline of 90 days prior to the General Council meeting.

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

WCT Medical Certification - FAQ

The Work Capacity Test "medical certification" in lieu of completing the WCT is creating a number of frequently asked questions.  I shared these questions with Brendon Fisher, Oregon Department of Forestry's Safety Manager and am posting both the questions and answers here to create a better understanding of how the medical certification is being interpreted this year.

This is health related information how widely can it be shared, will my co-workers be informed?

Because this is an official medical document, this information is confidential. The employee should only give their medical release to their immediate supervisor. Those records can only be shared with individuals who have a business related necessity or need to access them, such as Human Resources or the Safety Manager. Co-workers should not be informed of any health related information, unless divulged by the employee themselves. Some Co-workers may notice that the employee is not taking the pack test, but is still part of the firefighting effort and might ask why. In that situation, an appropriate response would be that they have a medical release in place of the Work Capacity Test, but no further information should be given.

The current form leaves a very small section to list limitations, and previously my supervisor has not accepted anything outside the given space.  Will attached information be allowed and how specific should the restriction/ limitation be described?

The medical release used now does provide a small section. It is meant to allow a physician to give general or summarized restrictions to prompt a further discussion. If more space was required, there are situations in which an attached form would be accepted. A physician could note in the restriction area – “see attachment”, but they should have the attachment be on their office letter head with their signature included. The more detailed the restrictions, the better, or easier it would be for HR and Safety to determine what duties an employee can still perform, the level of pack test they would normally be taking, and what accommodations may need to be considered based on their fire qualifications. In many situations, further clarification will need to be made either way, as a person’s fire qualifications and medical restrictions are likely to be unique compared to any other individual’s. Any follow up forms would be faxed to the physician in order to prevent further cost from them employee (unless the physician required another visit by the employee).

Will past medical certifications be considered as part of the “with restrictions” or if a medical certification is sought will just the current one be used to assess the reasonable accommodation? (health conditions can change)

Only the most current medical release will be considered. Because people’s health conditions can change, we expect that their restrictions may change as well, which is why we require an up-to-date medical release each season when restrictions are listed. If the employee was released to take the pack test, we would allow them based on their physician’s determination, even if they weren’t able to in years prior due to restrictions.

To clarify, if not employed but am a returning Seasonal employee, can I claim a $50 reimbursement for the medical review? (and when and how to request)

If someone, like a returning seasonal, qualifies for the $50.00 reimbursement for obtaining medical certifications in regards to the WCT, then they would keep a receipt of their medical bill or invoice, and complete the same reimbursement form that they would for travel and expense upon rehire. If the bill or invoice had sensitive information such as social security, they could black that out, but they must have some proof of their Dr. visit and cost. They can submit their reimbursement form any time after seeing their physician and after being rehired for the season by ODF.

Saturday, March 5, 2016

Forestry Local Logo Key Rings and Mugs Available

Key rings and mugs with our new Forestry Local logo are now available.  The logo, designed by the SEIU 503 graphics department, is a modernized throw back to the Department's first, features a full Douglas-fir (Oregon's State Tree), our state outline all surrounded by a circle with a FORESTRY LOCAL 629 banner across the bottom. Contact myself or your organizer to get them out to your worksite.

The key rings and mugs were purchased using part of our Union dues as a tangible presence of our Union benefits.

These items were approved for purchase at our last two Statewide Local meetings, and depending on their acceptance a decision to purchase additional items will be made at our next Statewide set for Saturday, April 30th in Salem.

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Floor Moving on Work Capacity Test

The Work Capacity Test has been in its current form as a Letter of Agreement (supplement to the body of our Contract) since at least the 2013-2015 Contract and is a LOA in our 2015-2019 Contact.  There were no additions or subtractions to the wording during the last Contract negotiation period.  However due to an opinion of the Department of Justice an interpretation of the LOA has changed in Section 5. Medical Certification (b).

The language reads: A medical certification from a licensed physician attesting to the employee’s ability to safely perform arduous, moderate or light level fire duties with restrictions may be substituted for passing the equivalent level of the WCT.  Such medical certification cannot be substituted when an employee has failed any WCT in that calendar year. (underline added)

The Department of Justice is now recognizing that the “with restrictions” portion of the language does restrict the fire duties one could perform and puts the Department into the position of determining if that restriction can be “reasonably accommodated” under the Americans with Disabilities Act.  Depending on the restriction placed by the licensed physician there is a possibility that the fire fighters duties could not be accommodated.

The change is previously the “with restrictions” wording of the medical certification was largely ignored and that with a medical certification it was assumed that one could fully perform at their designated fitness level.  This is no longer the case.  The only way to be fully qualified for your fire position, without restrictions, is to take and pass the WCT at the appropriate fitness level.

Friday, February 19, 2016

Forestry Leadership Nominations Close February 26th

Forestry Local 629 leadership nominations for our president, vice president, secretary and treasurer positions will close Friday, February 26th at 5:00pm.  Nominations should be sent to Mike Bray, SEIU 503 Statewide Forestry Coordinator.

Our Forestry Local has 3 delegates to General Council and the automatic delegates are the president, vice president and secretary.  Our treasurer serves as an alternate delegate.

The nomination form can be found at the SEIU 503 website:

Sunday, February 7, 2016

Remembering Bob Novick

It was with sadness that I read of the passing of Bob Novick on Wednesday, February 3rd in “The Oregonian”.  Bob Novick was the third, in my memory, SEIU 503 (at that time Oregon Public Employees Union) statewide Forestry Local organizer and one of the more influential. It might have been that we were in one of those leadership transitioning periods or there was a great sense of hope of what lay ahead.  Whatever it was Bob was there as a guide, like he had some idea of what was around the next corner.

Bob was a fully rounded Organizer, his wings had not been clipped and he soared.  Then an Organizer was expected to bargain contracts, represent someone at at discipinary hearings (when a Steward was not available), organize new members and share information about greater Union operations.  Bob performed all of those jobs in that simpler time when friends were those you knew from meetings and actions.  At meetings he was always surrounded by others and involved in livley discussion.  He gave me the idea of what an activist is.

Steve Novick, Portland City Commissioner noted that his father instilled “good-quality left-wing politics”,  to that I would add, something that his father, my organizer, said following a march “the action is always at the front” and that is where Bob could usually be found.

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Forestry Local Leadership, Nomimations Now Open

Nominations for the Forestry Local leadership positions of President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer opened February 1st.  Nominations will close at 5:00 pm on February 26th.

Nominations can be submitted to Mike Bray, SEIU Forestry Local Organizer.

These leadership positions is how our membership traditionally selects our representation on the Statewide Labor/ Management committee.  In the recent past representation has been heavily weighted towards the State Forests program and it is hoped with this new election a diversity of the Department's Programs and geographic locations will be represented. Over the years membership has come from the Administration,  Protection, State Forests and Private Forest Programs.

The President, Vice President and Secretary serve as the automatic delegates to General Council, the supreme governing body of our Union.  Our Local representation is based on membership numbers and based on that we have three delegates.  The Treasurer is an alternate delegate.

Please consider nominating yourself or a co-worker for one of our Local's Leadership positions.

Saturday, January 23, 2016

Forest Firefighting Positions Available

Oregon Department of Forestry has posted 47 announcements for Seasonal Full Time wildland firefighting positions.  The position titles are:

  • Wildland Fire Dispatcher
  • Forest Officer
  • Wildland Fire Suppression Specialist
  • Wildland Fire Suppression Specialist Entry
  • Forest Lookout
More information is available here:

Saturday, January 9, 2016

Confront or Overlook The State of our Local

Forestry Local - President’s Message
January 9, 2016

The good of our Local is that we were able to negotiate a pretty good contract, have contact mechanisms in place like a listserv, a top 100 forestry blog and that we are financially strong.

The bad, we are on leadership and representation life support.  Even though we pay dues we are currently organized as a volunteer organization.  Leadership is composed of volunteers and our representation function is also made up of volunteers, Stewards.

  • Volunteer organizations work when some of those volunteers are willing to do just a little bit more.

  • Confront or overlook
Stewards are the primary mechanism where representation is provided to our fellow employees in need.  We are gasping.  There are no Stewards in half of the State, Central and Eastern Oregon.  There are no Stewards in another ¼ of the State, the South Coast and Cascades.  In the ¼ of the State with Stewards there are not enough, with vacancies in Astoria, Forest Grove and Salem.  On Tuesday a new Steward was selected at South Fork, Will Bennett.  Brandon thank you for organizing this, I happily brought pizza and pushed until there was a selection.

Our organizers, make it pretty clear that they are not here to provide representation.  Their supervisors make it pretty clear to them that they are not to provide representation services. They are not trained to provide representation services.  They are like the Red Cross and bring the volunteer Steward and the person in need together and organize training like the Red Cross first aid classes, only ours is called “contract enforcement”.

I will go a lot of places and bring pizza when a Steward will be elected, I’m not so willing to travel to represent someone, and will leave that to others or our MRC.  It is the way we are currently organized.  Maybe it should be changed, if there are not enough volunteers willing to do a little bit more, but I think the current system of handling problems locally with locals is still better than other alternatives, look at the Bundy in Malheur.  Confront or overlook, let’s do something about finding more Stewards.

We are in a leadership selection phase in our Local, the President, Vice President, Secretary and Treasurer positions are open.

Nominations open: February 1, 2016
Nominations close: at 5 pm February 26, 2016
Candidate statements are due: by 5 pm March 11, 2016
Ballots mailed: March 29, 2016
Ballots returned: by 5 pm April 22, 2016

We are on life support now.  Our Treasurer took another job, our Secretary and Vice President will not be returning and myself, wondering what is next.

Leaders are needed to step up and fill our Local’s Leadership shortage.  The same is true in our State and in our Country.  To often leaders are selected from those who did not show up, or showed up late.  I don’t think that is the way it should be done.  I would like to overlook, but on this, I am more likely to confront.  The world is run by those who care enough to show up.

Think about it, you know the election timeline now.