Tentative Agreement at Volunteers of America!

Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update: Tentative Agreement at Volunteers of America!
June 13, 2018

Tentative Agreement at Volunteers of America!

Oregon AFSCME-represented workers at Volunteers of America Oregon (VOA) have finally reached a tentative agreement with their employer. The tentative agreement was signed yesterday evening, following eighteen months of contentious negotiations that led to multiple protests from workers, including a May 14th sit-in which resulted in 10 arrests, including Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Stacy Chamberlain, Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain and Oregon AFL-CIO Chief of Staff Graham Trainor.

VOA is a small but important non-profit in Portland focused on helping clients to recover from substance abuse and addiction. The seventy-person bargaining unit, is mostly made up of Counselors at two facilities in Portland. Workers began organizing with Oregon AFSCME in early 2016, due to low wages, high-turnover, and a want to have a larger voice in client care decisions. In September of 2016, workers voted in favor of joining Oregon AFSCME by a margin of 46-3.

Bargaining began in January 2017 and was almost immediately hostile. VOA gave out raises and an extra vacation day to non-union employees, explicitly excluding organized employees, and hired a union-busting firm to bargain the contract. What followed were months of stalled bargaining with little progress in what looked like an attempt to scuttle negotiation and wait workers out. Despite months of protest, and unfair labor practices VOA would not settle a contract.

In December of 2017, workers held a community rally where both State Rep. Jennifer Williamson and State Rep. Rob Nosse spoke out in support of workers. While workers continued to make progress, VOA refused to sign any contract with a “Union Security” clause, meaning that workers would not have to be part of the union. However, workers had voted 46-3 and it was a clear sign that VOA had little to no respect for the choice workers had made.

While negotiations continued to be stalled, the situation escalated in the Spring as workers held a rally outside VOA’s administrative offices on April 25th, followed by the May 14th sit-in. The sit-in resulted in ten activists being arrested marked a turning point in the negotiations and showed VOA that workers would not back down.   Another protest was scheduled for June 18th, to picket a fundraising gala the organization was planning on holding. However, VOA relented on their objections to a union security clause and with the signing of a tentative agreement on a contract the protest was cancelled.

For workers, both at VOA and within the behavioral health industry this is huge win. The mostly non-profit industry relies on high-skilled low wage workers to do the lifesaving front-line work, while a profiteering class of administrators rakes in salaries often north of one-hundred and fifty thousand dollars. That dynamic has led to high turnover and caseloads at behavioral health organizations along with unsafe working conditions at some facilities. The hard-fought win should be a signal to the industry that workers will no longer allow themselves to be exploited and that there is a strong community ready to stand with them in support.

“We are proud and fought really hard to get this agreement. We were able to secure wage increases and system improvements through this process, and we have a contract that gives us a path to raises each of the next three years, along with a just cause clause and numerous clarifications about the work we do. More than anything it really showed us that by sticking together and building community support we can fight back and make positive change both in our lives and that of our clients.”

Workers still need to vote on the tentative agreement to finalize the process and will likely do so in the next couple weeks.

Upcoming Events

June 17: Portland Pride Parade

Join Oregon's union as we march together in the 2018 Portland Pride Parade!
We are #92 in the parade lineup, followed by NALC Branch 82 at #93. Note: Parade lineup is subject to change. Please gather in the North Park Blocks at 10:00 a.m. on NW Davis between 8th and Park. The parade begins at 11. Click here for a map of the staging area.

June 18: Rally to Save Customer Service in Portland

The Portland area local of the American Postal Workers Union is hosting a rally to call attention to staffing issues at area Post Offices and Processing Plants. Get all the details here.

The Future of Our Movement

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain’ writes about the rising tide of unionism and collective action amidst attempts by the wealthy to limit our voices in the latest issue of the Northwest Labor Press:

“As long as workers dream of a better life, they will see our movement as their best option. Yes, we are living through some very difficult times, but for our movement to survive and thrive we must not be discouraged and we must find the strength and determination to forge a 21st Century workers’ movement that builds power and reflects the broad diversity of the American worker.”

Click here to read President Chamberlain’s article.

Take Action

Tell the Ashland Transportation Commission that drivers for companies like Uber & Lyft deserve a voice on the job!  We can address issues that transportation networks drivers have been outspoken about: low wages, inadequate compensation, unfair insurance and deactivation practices, and the lack of a channel for drivers to speak on their concerns while ensuring further expansion of this industry meets the needs of our community.

Grand Theft Paycheck

This Article Appears Courtesy of the AFL-CIO Blog

A new report, Grand Theft Paycheck: The Large Corporations Shortchanging Their Workers’ Wages, reveals that large corporations have paid out billions to resolve wage theft lawsuits brought by workers. The lawsuits show that corporations frequently force employees to work off the clock, cheat them out of legally required overtime pay and use other methods to steal wages from workers.

"Our findings make it clear that wage theft goes far beyond sweatshops, fast-food outlets and retailers. It is built into the business model of a substantial portion of Corporate America," said Philip Mattera, the lead author of the report and director of research for Good Jobs First, which produced the report in conjunction with the Jobs With Justice Education Fund.

Here are nine things you need to know from the Grand Theft Paycheck report:

1. The top dozen companies from the report, in terms of wage theft settlement payouts, are Walmart, FedEx, Bank of America, Wells Fargo, JPMorgan Chase & Co., State Farm Insurance, AT&T, United Parcel Service, ABM Industries, Tenet Healthcare, Zurich Insurance Group and Allstate. With the exception of Tenet Healthcare, each of these companies had profits in 2017 of $3 billion or more.

2. More than 450 big companies have paid out $1 million or more in wage theft settlements.

3. Since 2000, there have been more than 1,200 successful collective actions that have been resolved for a total in penalties of more than $8.8 billion.

4. Only eight states enforced wage theft penalties and provided data for the report. Those eight states combined with the federal totals bring the number of cases to 4,220 and the cumulative penalties reaching $9.2 billion. This includes no data from the remaining states.

5. Fortune 500 and Fortune Global 500 companies account for the bulk of the penalties, with 2,167 cases and $6.8 billion in penalties.

6. Seven individual settlements exceeded $100 million. The worst case was a $640 million omnibus settlement with Walmart, covering more than 60 different initial lawsuits.

7. The retail industry is the most frequent violator, followed by financial services, freight and logistics, business services, insurance, miscellaneous services, health care services, restaurants and food service, information technology, and food and beverage products.

8. The most penalized industries tend to be those that employ a large percentage of women, African American and Latino workers.

9. These numbers only include penalties that have been publicly disclosed. More than 125 confidential cases were found involving nearly 90 large companies, including AT&T, Home Depot, Verizon Communications Inc., Comcast, Lowe’s and Best Buy.

Read the full report.