Monday, November 25, 2013

November Statewide Meeting – Notes and Observations

On Saturday, November 23, 2013 the Forestry Local held a statewide meeting in Portland.  The agenda was full and in the spirit of the season it looked a bit like the Christmas wish list of a 6 year old.  But unlike a wish list we were able to get it all and were completed by 3:00 pm.

Doug Decker, our State Forester started the meeting with a sincere thank-you for everyone, and their families, for the firefighting work this past season, Oregon’s worst since 1951.  Referring to the firefighting work Decker said “when we can demonstrate value we are recognized” which is coming in helpful now that ODF is asking the Legislature to help pay the accrued bills. Decker also talked about the Elliot State Forest and the recent layoffs, lawsuit and management changes and asked for support for the current employees.

Agenda Items:

Jesse Backman was recognized for his years as President and contributions towards Police and Fire Retirement.  A recognition gift from the Local will be presented on December 12th.

Protection personnel receiving up to 3 additional checks August – October:  About 80 employees primarily in Protection received 3 additional checks due to a mis-interpretation of a Letter of Agreement meant for employees hired in 2009 that had been passed over for a step increase.  The overpayments need to be re-paid but an agreement was reached to minimize the burden on the employee.  More information is available from Human Resources, Payroll or your President.

Fire Season Wrap-up:  Primary issues were around Rest and Rotation periods and lunches. These items will be brought up at Labor/ Management.

New Contract:  Printed copies will be available from your Organizer in early December.

Bully Boss Training:  New contract language provides more accountability, but if necessary, a worksite campaign is still needed for successful resolution.

Anti-Worker Family Ballot Measure: Presentation on a potential ballot measure that would target the ability of Public Sector Unions to function and provide representation for employees.  Contributing to CAPE encouraged.

Election Timeline Established:  Elections for Forestry Local 629 leadership positions will be held in 2014.  The elections committee will be established in early January; Nominations will open on January 13, 2014; Nominations will close on January 28, 2014 at 5:00 pm; Candidate statements are due February 7, 2014; Ballots will be mailed February 21, 2014, with replacement ballot requests by March 5, 2014; Ballots due back by March 14, 2014; Official election results due by March 21, 2014.

Requests and approvals:

Union cell phones for the President and Treasurer were approved.

The Treasurer’s tour of District offices in Central and Eastern Oregon was approved.

The President’s travel to Alternate Forest Management Plan meetings was approved.

For Astoria’s forest management staff a “pizza meeting” with 5 more possible was approved to see if there is an opportunity to build equity in timber sale contract administration.

Next meeting:

The next meeting will be held in Coos Bay on April 26, 2014.

Friday, October 11, 2013

Forestry Local 629 Statewide Meeting, November 23, 2013

The next Forestry Local statewide meeting will be held on Saturday, November 23, 2013 in Portland at the SEIU 503 office located at 6401 SE Foster Road.  It will run from 10 am to 2 pm.

Oregon's State Forester Doug Decker will speak at our meeting.

This will be our opportunity to discuss the past fire season and develop topics for our next Labor/ Management meeting in January 2014.  There will also be a short training on new contract provisions.  Local Officer elections will also be discussed.

A conference call option will be available, and the number can be obtained from SEIU 503 Staff Organizer Timothy Welp or Local President David Wells.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

Standing Behind Our Firefighters

Seasonal wildland firefighters have returned to protect approximately 16 million acres of Oregon's forest.  Trained and ready they respond with red lights and sirens (when authorized) to keep wildfires small and controlled within a day.  The seasonal firefighters are the backbone on the wildfire firefighting force.

Behind them is everyone else.

Employees from State Forest Management, Administration, Resource Planning, Private Forests, Urban and Community Forestry, and others in the Protection from Fire Program provide the support and sometimes complete the wildland firefighting work initiated by the seasonal firefighters.  Our strength in wildfire suppression comes from everyone being in it together, either by directly helping with the firefighting effort or filling in for others.  It is time to pack your fire bag and gather your field gear together.  A tent, sleeping bag and foam pad are available from the Department upon request if you do not want to use your own.

Seasonal wildland firefighters, a whole bunch of us have got your back.

ODOT Coalition Tentative Agreement Reached on 6/18/2013

A tentative agreement was reached on issues important to ODOT Coalition members at 12:15 am on 6/18/2013.  The last issue to be decided was the Union's proposal for more flexibility for Seasonal Employees to carry over accrued vacation leave to concurrent seasons.  The Union's proposal did not succeed and current contract language prevails, where Seasonal Employees who have "back to back" seasons that start and end within 17 days of each other can carry over 40 hours of vacation leave.  Some other conditions apply.

For the Forestry Local there were improvements in the Work Capacity Test and recognizing geotechnicial specialists who hold professional licenses with a differential.  Other proposals like recognizing the  Forestry Office Staff at South Fork with a differential for  their work located in a correctional facility was less successful.

This was a bargaining session for night owls.  Looking for agreement with the State of Oregon and our coalition partners ODOT, DMV, ODFW, and State Parks kept us at the table beyond midnight for at least 4 days and once until 3:15 am.  A special thanks goes out to Forestry bargaining delegates and other interested members who shared that time include John Seward, Jim Neuman, Doug Firoved and Dave Wells.

Sunday, May 19, 2013

Are You Afraid of Your Supervisor?

Are you afraid to discuss your work schedule, clarify a work duty or request vacation leave?  What about being told to take leave and come in late for work the next day after working on a forest fire, would you feel comfortable showing up at your regular time?  Employees who are afraid of their supervisors is a recurring theme at bargaining table this year, enough so that Glenn West, Chief Negotiator for the Department of Administrative Services (ODOT Coalition) had to say that an employee should not be afraid of their boss.

Nobody should be afraid of their supervisor; it is not healthy for employee or employer. So how does it get fixed?  If it is a true bully boss situation contact SEIU or Human Resources but if not, then being an empowered employee may be enough.  Being an empowered employee takes skill.  Empowerment is not being rude or disrespectful, but having the ability to ask a question, ask for something that is yours, or clarify a work assignment (make sure assignments are clear and understood).  The skill is in figuring out what is the best way to say something, understanding if it can be heard right now and knowing what messages are better said as an individual, by a group, or with your Steward. If it is a contract issue do you really know what it means (check with the SEIU Member Resource Center) and how the words are being interpreted. Empowered communication considers the message, delivery and audience.

No employee should be afraid of their boss.

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Improved Work Capacity Test, Tentative Agreement Reached

A tentative agreement was reached on Tuesday 4/16/2013 on an improved version of the Work Capacity Test (WCT).  Management and Labor both brought changes to the bargaining table to solve some problems with the Test that received a major overhaul in 2011.  Now if someone misses a scheduled date for the WCT (and up to three others), perhaps due to a out of Oregon assignment, the Department will be able to provide the test using a person certified in First Aid/ CPR/ AED who is willing and able to provide assistance at the test site. Also changed is the re-imbursement rate for those who need to see a medical professional as part of the pre-screening process.  The rate following ratification of the contract will now be $50, to more accurately reflect the current cost of co-pays.

It is a true testament to the listening skills of both Labor and Management to come to this agreement.

Next scheduled dates for ODOT Coalition bargaining are April 30,  May 14 and May 28 at OPRD Headquarters in Salem.

The next Forestry conference call is Sunday evening, April 28th and participant call numbers are available from SEIU Staff Organizer Timothy Welp or Forestry Local President Dave Wells.

The spring Statewide Forestry Meeting is May 18, 2013 in Coos Bay.  We will be meeting from 9:00 am to 1:00 pm in the Coos Bay - North Bend Labor Temple located at 3427 Ash Street, North Bend.

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Save the Date, May 18th for Forestry Statewide Meeting

On May 18, 2013 the Forestry Local will hold it's next statewide meeting in Coos Bay.  We will be meeting in the Coos Bay - North Bend Labor Temple, located at 3427 Ash Street, North Bend.  Topic items are still being developed but will include support for the staff at the Coos District and developing a Seasonal Firefighter union orientation outline.  If you have other items that you would like to see on the agenda please forward them to any of your elected Forestry Leadership.
A call-in number will also be available for those who cannot make it in person.

The next Forestry Local conference call will be Sunday evening, April 14th at 1800.  For a call-in number contact Local President Dave Wells or SEIU Staff Organizer Timothy Welp.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Smaller Harvest, Little Trees and Fewer Staff in Coos District

Seven employees of the Oregon Department of Forestry received layoff notices on Monday, March 11th as a result of the reduced harvest level now planned for the Coos District.  For the past 10 years their harvest had been between 25 and 30 million board feet (MMBF) and is now set at 15 MMBF.  This harvest will be primarily from younger and smaller trees similar to those removed from forests managed mostly for timber production by large private owners.  Previous harvests on the Coos District included trees that grew following forest fires in the mid to late 1800’s.

How will this effect Oregon’s rural economy?  From the timber harvest standpoint the loss of 15 MMBF of timber harvest equates to the loss of 165* direct forest sector jobs. These are the family wage jobs prized anywhere and cherished in rural areas.  There is also the threat to infrastructure like the mill in Douglas County that takes logs and turns them into timbers for timber frame homes.  Wood homes sequester carbon and these timber frame homes really look spectacular doing it.

These layoffs are also a big loss of skill from the Coos District.  One person who received a lay off notice has more than 30 years, and another more than 25 years of experience of working in Oregon’s Forests.  Others with homes and family face major changes in their lives and disruption in the communities where they live.

Please write your Oregon Legislator and ask them to help restore harvest levels on the Coos District and bring jobs back to Coos Bay.

* Oregon Forest Resources Institute 2012 Forest Report “Poised to Rebound”; 1 MMBF of timber harvested creates or retains 11 direct forest sector jobs.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Forestry Bargaining Began February 5, 2013

ODOT Coalition bargaining, of which Forestry is a part, began Tuesday night February 5th. At this and the next meeting scheduled for March 5th is where our proposals will be handed back and forth, with the real discussions on of the proposals coming March 19th.  Forestry specific proposals given to the Local from Management were clean-up language putting the current name of the Department of Forestry into the contract and a proposal to incorporate the Work Capacity Test in the body of the contract and make changes to the health and safety part of the test.  The Local did not have any proposals to share across the table.

Representing the Local were delegates Doug Firoved and Dave Wells, who were joined by member Jim Neuman.  Representing Management were Human Resource Generalists, Heidi Steiner and Dan Jones.  All members of the Local are invited to attend.

Bargaining is being held at the OPRD Salem Headquarters located at 725 Summer Street NE and the Coalition meets at 5:30 pm with actual face to face bargaining beginning about 6:30 pm.  The next meetings are scheduled for March 5 and 19, April 2, 16, and 30.  No dates have been scheduled into May.  A Forestry Conference call is scheduled for Sunday February 10th at 6:00 to discuss proposals and orgainize for the contract campaign, the phone number is available from