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: http://www.seiu503.org/2017/09/wildfire-fire-member-assistance-application/

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.

 

Wednesday, August 2, 2017

Eclipse, Plan Ahead and Prepare

In less than three weeks, on August 21st, Oregon will be in the path of totality of a solar eclipse that sweeps from the Coast to Idaho border.  That is the known known.

The unknown known is how will the eclipse effect the Oregon Department of Forestry’s mission to prevent and suppress wildfires.  There is a lot of work being done to have an idea of what this unknown will be and how to mitigate it if it does jeopardize the Department’s fire fighting mission. This is well and good and thankfully there are a lot of really bright people working on the project and come eclipse time good plans will be in place if bad things happen.

Another known known are the expected employee contributions to minimize the effect on Oregon’s forests from wildfire.  Unlike a fire emergency that starts from a spark and can grow rapidly enough to threaten a city and involve a Incident Management Team within a few hours there is time to plan for this event and that planning should include the care and feeding of involved staff.  I just heard a story of past dated Meals Ready to Eat (MRE) being provided to some of our firefighters. If an MRE is going to substitute for a meal it needs to be served before it’s past pull date.  If this happens to you will you please let your Steward or someone from your Local’s leadership team know.  Our Local is also reaching out to those Districts and Units within the Path of Totality to provide “snacks” to go along with the provided meal, again, please contact your Steward or elected Local leadership to make these arrangements.

Plan ahead and prepare, be safe.

Friday, July 7, 2017

President’s Wildfire Message

We have now heard from the Chief and Safety Officer about our 2017 Oregon wildfire season, so I thought it would be appropriate that you heard from your Forestry Local President.  Complete and coordinated includes you, the wildland firefighter and all the budgeting, planning, staffing, training time and tools that are now ready for your wildfire suppression mission.  Travel time maps, pump discharge rates and friction loss in hose were all factored in here, the technical part of our work.

As your Local President, my focus is on you, the human component of the wildfire suppression equation.  Hose and shovel do very little to suppress a wildfire unless someone picks them up and knows how to use them effectively.  

Two words, good decisions.

I ask you to make the best decisions possible, wildfire demands it. Come to work prepared, practice like you’re going to play, fight fire aggressively but provide for safety first, LCES, respect your coworkers.  I’ve internalized these thoughts and didn’t have to go to the Fireline Handbook to look them up and you may want to also.  Decisions are everywhere just think about what goes into pushing dozer line in Southwest Oregon when the inversion lifts.  How will you feel when you made the right decisions and the line holds?  So this summer (fall, winter, spring) think, and make those good decisions you will feel better for it.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Bargaining Brings More Money for Skills and Late Nights

Bargaining is currently underway in the second half of our four year contract and bright spots are increasing the differential for night work and a new one for tree falling.

The shift differential for working on Saturday, Sunday and between 6:00 pm and 6:00 am had been $0.75 per hour and our bargaining team is working to raise it beyond the $1.00 per hour (a $0.25/ hour increase) recently offered by Management. While regular "weekend" shift work is generally limited to firefighting and recreation staff everyone may see this as a benefit when working on an incident.  The goal of our bargaining team is to raise it beyond Management's initial offer to recognize the willingness to accept incident assignments and off regular shift schedules.

Another move is recognizing ODF, Parks and ODOT tree fallers with a tree falling differential.  Cassie Zook represented ODF employees in describing the work involved with tree falling which aided the discussion in creating this new differential.  For ODF tree fallers doing "Level 3" work they will receive $1.25/ hour in addition to their regular salary while evaluating, falling and processing trees that will and are being felled.

Both of these differentials would not likely have happened without employee interest and solid work at the bargaining table.  The big issues still needing resolution are the pay and benefit package and any help and support you can give the bargaining team will be much appreciated.

Friday, June 9, 2017

Incident Management Rest New Safety Tool for ODF Wildland Firefighters

Incident Management Rest, Rotation and Recovery are words ODF firefighters should be aware of heading into the 2017 wildfire season.  A new policy effective January 1, 2017 establishes a new standard (with some exceptions) to mitigate fatigue following 14 consecutive days working on an incident.  This 14 day period, not including travel, is now recognized as the Standard Assignment and when called the time the employee should be prepared to be away from their regular work station.  

Following 14 consecutive days or nights the employee will be placed on “Incident Management Rest”, (IMR) relieved of their firefighting duties and receive 8 hours of straight time pay.  This even applies if the firefighter returns to their duty station on their regular day off.  This IMR rest period is not in the Contract and has been offered by ODF to mitigate the fatigue associated for those who have worked the full 14 day Standard Assignment.

Rest and Recovery refers to the 8 hours of paid leave when the employee returns on their regularly scheduled work day and has been away from their official work station for 21 or more consecutive days. This paid leave has been in the Contract for a number of years and is referenced in Article 60.3C.

Exceptions can be made in Rest and Rotation depending on incident severity and critical needs.

In short: Incident Management Rest: 8 hours of paid leave following 14 day Standard Assignment, that excludes travel.

Rest and Recovery, 8 hours of paid leave after being away from duty station for 21 or more consecutive days.

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

Friday, January 13, 2017

47 Seasonal Fire Suppression Jobs Available

The Oregon Department of Forestry is accepting applications for 47 different Seasonal, full time positions in the Protection from fire program.  These positions are located throughout Oregon and include the  classifications of Forest Officer, Wildland Fire Dispatcher, Wildland Fire Suppression Specialist, Wildland Fire Suppression Specialist Entry and Forest Lookout.

These are Union represented positions with benefits.


Please pay attention to this note from the Human Resource Department: All current employment opportunities can be found at www.oregonjobs.org.  Please pay special attention to the Application Instructions in the announcement to ensure your application materials are submitted correctly.  Thank you.

Friday, January 6, 2017

Tree Falling Committee Commences Work

The Tree Falling Committee, as established during ODOT Coalition bargaining in 2015 will soon commence its work.  During bargaining a differential for tree falling work was proposed, but lack of time to really understand the work involved and different aspects of chainsaw use lead to a letter of intent to discuss it further.  Now the committee, with management and employee representatives from Departments (ODOT, OPRD, ODF) who need skilled chain saw operators will meet to understand the nature, frequency and specific training needed.  

Cassie Bostrom of the Santiam Unit, North Cascades District will be the Oregon Department of Forestry employee representative on the committee.  She brings past experience working for OPRD hanging from ropes clearing trees from the Columbia Gorge Scenic Highway and now falls danger trees in campgrounds and clears trees from roadways blocking tree planting crews for ODF.  If you have comments about the Committee’s work they can be forwarded to Cassie directly or through your President.