Sunday, December 21, 2014

A Little Better Holiday, A Good Time to Rest and Repair

What a year, almost 12 months of firefighting, substantial work towards a new Forest Management Plan, and decisions on the Elliott State Forest.  Our work never really offered any of us a break, and it was noticed. I heard that Legislator's were very supportive of the Department's work that you accomplished, a real recognition of a job well done.

If you can, take some time to reflect on, rest and repair those missed days with the ones you care for and cherish.  These are The Holidays, live and share the spirit.

For your Forestry Local, it is a time of rest too, but in a bargaining year that rest is always short lived.  Here are some dates where decisions will be made about your work environment, and as always your Forestry Local Leadership would like your input to help make the best decisions possible:

Labor/ Management, Tuesday, January 6th Salem

ODOT Coalition Bargaining Workshop, Friday, January 23rd Portland

Forestry Local Statewide Meeting, Sunday, January 25th 8-10am Portland

SEIU 503 Bargaining Kick-off, Sunday, January 25th 10 am - 4pm Portland

ODOT Coalition Bargaining, First bargaining session, Tuesday, February 3rd, 5 pm dinner, 6pm bargaining Salem

If you have questions about how to participate please contact any of your local officers.

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Forestry is Part of the ODOT Bargining Coalition, Meeting November 15

Forestry Local 629 is part of the larger ODOT Coalition when it comes to contract negotiations and bargaining with the State of Oregon.  On November 15, 2014 the Coalition will meet in Salem at the Red Lion located at 3301 Market Street NE from 10:00 A to 2:00 P.  The purpose of the meeting will be to review Bargaining Surveys for contract proposals and identify supporters for proposals developed at our Statewide Meeting in The Dalles.

Contract proposals generally are not made public until they are handed across the negotiating table.  If you would like to keep updated on the proposals please let me know.

Saturday, November 1, 2014

Forestry Statewide Meeting, The Dalles

The Forestry Local held its Statewide meeting on October 25th in The Dalles.  It was a full meeting covering a variety of topics, following is a summary of the decisions and next steps.

Legislative Proposals: Concept proposed to allow employees who receive seasonal Police and Fire retirement benefits  to be permitted to contribute year round into their P & F account.  Plan is to get on a PERS Board Meeting agenda and make the initial proposal there.

Bargaining: This was the scoping phase of the bargaining proposal process where ideas were brought forward for further consideration.  Kent Stanford from Washington Public Forestry Employees joined us by phone to share their concepts.  From the discussion there is common ground in Oregon and Washington.  Our proposals will be re-evaluated on November 15th at the Salem Red Lion from 10 am to 3 pm when we meet with others from the coalition.

 Bargaining and SEIU 503, The Big Picture: "In it Together" will be one of the tenants of our contract campaign. We have legitimate reasons to get a fair contract.  Did you know that about 12% of our bargaining unit makes less than $15/ hour and 31% is topped out.  There will be more emphasis on the jobs you do and how your work touches Oregonians everyday.

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 candidates 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.

Budget:  Our Locals budget was approved.  Highlights include funding of four Statewide meetings, training opportunities and Elliot State Forest hats.

Next Meetings:

ODOT Coalition Bargaining, Saturday, November 15, 2014, 10:00 am to 2:00 pm,
Salem Red Lion.

Forestry Labor/ Management, first week in January 2015, Salem ODF

Forestry Statewide in conjunction with Stewards Conference, February 2015

Friday, October 10, 2014

Update of By-laws Concerning Stewards Planned at Statewide Meeting

Our by-laws are not in conformance with SEIU 503's concerning Stewards.  While the general duties are included, how a Steward is selected and how they can can be removed are not defined.  Stewards need to be accountable to the co-workers they represent as they not only handle grievances through appropriate channels but also serve as the main communication channel between members and management, Local leadership and staff.  Respect and trust of a Stewards ability to fairly represent the member is key to their ability to resolve problems.

A revision of our by-laws regarding Stewards is an agenda item at our Statewide Local meeting set for October 25th in The Dalles.  Members who have an interest in this issue are encouraged to attend either in person or by conference call.

Reminder Statewide Meeting, October 25

This is a reminder that our next Statewide Forestry Local meeting will be October 25th in The Dalles.  A postcard with additional information is being mailed soon and has registration and how to arrange lodging if needed.  RSVP is requested if you are attending or need lodging by October 22nd to make sure the room can be set up for our use.

If you cannot attend but would still like to participate a conference call number has been set up which is available from Mike Bray @ 503-610-8004 or Dave Wells @ 503-801-8468.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Please Help Me Welcome, Mike Bray Our New Organizer

Please help me welcome Mike Bray our new Forestry Local staff organizer.  You can learn more about him and his past Union experience at our next Statewide Local meeting, October 25th in The Dalles.

If you would like to contact Mike before then he can be reached at cell 503-610-8004 or desk 503-772-5772.  His e-mail is:

Friday, September 26, 2014

Statewide Forestry Meeting, October 25, 2014

Save Saturday October 25 for our next Statewide Forestry Local
 meeting to be held in The Dalles.  More information will be coming, but agenda items will likely include bargaining concepts, a look at how our by-laws address Steward selection and dismissal and the general state of our Local.  The president of Washington State's forestry employee union may also be attending.

Time from 10:00 am to 3:00 pm, meeting at Cousins Restaurant 2114 W 6th St., The Dalles.  A call-in option will be available.  Lunch and breaks provided.  They have great cinnamon rolls.

Remember to save October 25th.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Seasonal Employees Should Know These Three

The fire season is still going strong with temperatures in the 90s predicted and Red Flag warnings, but the season will end and here are some things to be thinking about when it does.

Unemployment Benefits: There was a revision to our employee handbook dated March 2014, that discusses unemployment benefits.  Unlike the private sector, benifits paid to state employees are dollar for dollar and not a percentage of payroll earnings.  Your work time must be accurately reported (start and end dates) to the Employment Department.  Willful misrepresentation can result in disciplinary action up to dismissal.

Electronic Pay Stubs: This came up at Labor/ Management, a paper pay stub is not automatically produced with each paycheck.  There are many reasons where that paycheck stub needs to be shown, like in a rental agreement or applying for a loan.  Get them while you are still at work.  Avoid the hastle and extra work it will cause the office staff to get them printed after you leave work.  Again, get them while you are still at work.

When Your Season Ends:  According to our Contact "A seasonal employee shall be given at least 10 calendar days advance notice of the end of the season, except when conditions are beyond control of the Agency".  This seems fair as generally contract language attempts to do.  If this is not being held to I would like to know.

Thank you so very much for keeping so many of the fires small and being the true professional firefighters that you are.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Labor/ Management a Real Myth Buster

At our Labor/Management meetings Rumor Control is always an agenda item, but at our last meeting more myths and rumors were embedded throughout the meeting than normal.  To set the record straight here are two that we discussed:

On Call, Standby and Work Schedules: The Department of Forestry suppresses wildfires and when a fire starts outside of the normal workweek ODF’s trained and able firefighters need to be located.  In our contract Article 90.3C Work Schedules (Forestry) contains specific language about this.  In Section 3 On Call, supervisors can require employees to provide their general location and how they can be reached.  There is no restriction on how the employee can use their time so there is no On Call or Standby pay.  There is a similar arrangement for lunch in Section 4, where employees required not to leave their duty station during lunch but not required to continue working are not paid for this time.  Standby and On-Call Duty (Article 34) are options available to management when the employee is required to be available for work and there would be restrictions on what the employee can do in their off time.

Personnel from Human Resources at the Incident Command Post: The Incident Commander is the designated human resources point person, just like it has been. A staff member from the Human Resources section was assigned to the Douglas Complex to assist with the rest and rotation schedule.  If you see someone from Human Resources and they are not too busy stop and say hi, they are probably a long way from home.

A more complete rendering of the discussion around these two items will be in the meeting minutes, but thought it would be important to get it out quickly now that fire season is underway in some parts of Oregon.

Friday, May 23, 2014

This is Your Season

Seasonally wildland firefighters, lookouts and recreational staff fill the essential roles of protecting Oregon’s forests and enhancing recreational experiences in the State Forests.  Thank you for taking this job on. Memories of an Oregon summer day can last a lifetime. Be it stopping a forest fire or maintaining a picnic spot along a river, you will be a part of this.  Oregon expects big things of you.

This is your season, and you are not alone.

I just wanted to let you know that if times get tough, SEIU 503 and Forestry Sub-local 629 is a resource that you can turn to for help.  Stewards and SEIU Staff are available to answer contract interpretation questions, like what is “on-call” and “stand by”, boot allowances, vacation time around a holiday and the little known ability to carry over vacation leave when you are scheduled into a “back to back” season.  Contract language has been negotiated on your behalf to create an environment where you can excel and feel valued doing the all important work you will be asked to do.

This is your season, so join.

Please consider joining our Union.  The ability to negotiate a contract that goes from good to great depends in a large part on employee support.  One of the easiest ways of showing this support is by joining.  It is not that hard but you do need to complete a Membership Application which is available from your Steward, a Statewide elected officer or our SEIU 503 staff organizer Ross Grami at 503-581-1505 ext 191 or

This is your season, shine.

Sunday, April 27, 2014

Forestry Local 629 April Meeting Minutes

On Saturday, April 26, 2014 the Forestry Local held a statewide meeting in Salem.  It was a full agenda and we completed our work by about 2:30 pm.

Agenda items:

State of Our Local:
Our Local officers, David Wells, Brandon Ferguson and Jim Neuman were sworn in as President, Vice President and Secretary respectively.  Tim Seitz our Treasurer could not attend do to a family commitment. Each of the officers had a chance to share their goals for the next two years.  Brandon looks to focus on both the employee and public safety and improve employee relationships within the bargaining group and greater community. Jim’s focus was on bargaining and how to improve opportunities for temporary and seasonal employees and those in the NRS series. Dave’s goal is to develop the Local’s leadership and recruit additional Stewards so no one would ever have to go alone when called into a supervisor’s office.  Ross Grami our new SEIU 503 Statewide coordinator provided an update on membership numbers and Stewards.

Steward Recruitment:
To fill out our Local’s leadership the following Steward recruitment assignments were made:
Jim- West Oregon and Astoria
Brandon- John Day and LaGrande
Dave- Salem, Grants Pass and Coos Bay

Stewards are selected from the membership where they work, following (generally) this process:
  • A 10 day notice of an election for a Steward is provided in the worksite
  • There is a call for nominations, you must be a member to be a Steward and to vote, you can join at the meeting
  • Those present can decide how they want to vote by voice or ballot
  • The results need to be announced to the membership and SEIU 503 informed
  • And it is recommended that the new Steward attend training offered by SEIU on Union 101 and Contract Enforcement

Forestry Local Promotional Items:
The Local will purchase 200 baseball style caps with an Elliot State Forest theme and 300 long and short sleeved T-shirts, green with our Local’s design.

Labor/ Management Agenda Items:
Our next L/M meeting will be held June 5 in Salem.  There was a really good discussion of what will be discussed from everyone present and we now have a full agenda.

District Concerns:
The seasonal firefighter training schedule will be requested so Union orientations can be provided.  Other District concerns will be addressed more completely in separate posts.

The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for October 11, 2014 in either Sisters or Prineville.

Friday, March 28, 2014

Forestry Local Statewide Meeting - April 26

The next Forestry Local Statewide meeting will be Saturday, April 26, 2014 starting at 10:00 am in Salem at SEIU 503 Headquarters located at 1730 Commercial Street.  The full agenda is currently being developed and if you have ideas please contact any of your statewide officers or our new coordinator, Ross Grami (  A call-in option will be available.

Ideas currently on the agenda include:
  • installation and swearing in of your new officers
  • discussion of agenda items for our next Labor/ Management meeting June 5th
  • steward recruitment and assignments
  • leadership development
  • reports from your officers
  • purchase of promotional items for the Local (Elliott State Forest hats?)
  • District/ Area concerns
The plan is to conclude about 2:00 pm and select our next meeting location and date (perhaps a co-located meeting with ODOT).

Lunch will be provided, lodging and mileage according to SEIU 503 Administrative Policies.

I hope you can make time to help manage our Local by either calling in or attending in person.  The call-in number will be available from Ross Grami at or myself at (503) 801-8468.

Friday, March 21, 2014

Forestry Leadership Elected for 2014-2016

Forestry Local 629's leadership has been elected for 2014-2016, thank you to all who voted.  Your elected leaders are part of bargaining team, represent the Forestry Local at SEIU 503's General Council, and are members of the Dept. of Forestry's Statewide Labor/ Management Committee.

President: David Wells
Vice President: Brandon Ferguson
Secretary: Jim Neuman
Treasurer: Tim Seitz

Friday, March 7, 2014

Forestry Local Ballot Deadline - March 14, 2014

For Forestry Local 629's leadership election, ballots must be received by March 14, 2014.

Friday, February 21, 2014

Towards a Politically and Socially Sustainable Forest, Part Two

The Northwest Oregon State Forest Management plan is currently in a revision process and there are a number of ways to contribute to the process.  One is attend one of the Alternative Forest Management Plan meetings scheduled for Astoria, Forest Grove and Tillamook.  Another is to become part of ODF's online community and to join this group click here:   Join ODF Online Community

Please consider taking an active part in the development of the new plan and help shape the future of these forests that have benefited from a long history of care.

Friday, February 14, 2014

Towards a Politically and Socially Sustainable Forest

How will the Big 3 (Astoria, Forest Grove, Tillamook) and the Little 3 (North Cascades, Philomath, West Oregon) State Forests be managed?  This was question posed to a group of eight forest stakeholders representing diverse interests by Governor Kitzhaber. Their task, in four meetings, to find commonality in a forest management approach that would be financially viable for the Oregon Department of Forestry and be politically and socially sustainable. Governor Kitzhaber placed in the groups hands the ability to shape forest management in our Oregon and he had great optimism that options could be found where common ground existed.

I attended the last two of these meetings with the goal of keeping the group talking and having as much advance notice as possible to forest management changes that our Local’s membership would be asked to implement.

The main thing I have to report is the support the represented stakeholders have in your work with the Department of Forestry.  But the current Forest Management Plan's application of Structure Based Management was faulted for its not providing enough conservation benefit and timber harvest value.  Ed Kamholz, citizen representative, noted however that the “FMP had been relatively trouble free (from litigation) for the past 13½ years”.  That optimistic clear path as a way to increase both conservation and timber harvest, which many in the audience had hoped for, was not provided for the Board of Forestry to follow.  What was clear though, when it comes to the management of Oregon’s State Forests everyone had their game face on.