Families Belong Together

Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update: Families Belong Together
June 20, 2018

Families Belong Together

America’s attention has been squarely focused on the inhumane and exceedingly cruel “zero tolerance” immigration policy from President Trump and his administration. Earlier today, President Trump signed an executive order into law to end the practice of separating families, but we still don't know what the actual implications of the executive order will be.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain responded to President Trump's executive order today in a press statement:

"President Trump’s executive action today addressing his own abusive policy of separating families at the border doesn’t end this humanitarian crisis. By doubling down on his immoral ‘zero tolerance’ policies, today’s action makes the situation worse. Putting families seeking a better life in cages is never the answer. What does it say about our values as a nation when our government imposes cruel, punitive measures on children?"

In Oregon, this policy has hit home as Causa, our partner in the fight for immigrant rights, explains in their blog:

“….the federal government transferred 123 immigrants from detentions near the U.S.- Mexico Border to the federal prison in Sheridan, Oregon, part of an unprecedented contract with the federal Bureau of Prisons to hold 1,600 immigrants nationwide for ICE. Among the detainees being threatened with deportation are fathers who were forcibly separated from their children by ICE as they arrived fleeing violence in their home countries."

"This news comes as the Trump Administration’s inhumane “zero tolerance” policy to detain and separate families seeking asylum is tearing children and their parents apart daily. The damage caused by this policy - children in makeshift shelters, overflowing detention centers, and human rights violations - represent a humanitarian crisis that has now hit Oregonians in our backyard.”

Hundreds of activists responded at a vigil in Sheridan on Monday, including union members. KGW reported about the rapid response in Sheridan:

“The crowd, from toddlers to senior citizens, gathered in a park immediately outside the fence at Sheridan Federal Correctional Institution to sing and pray. Guards and inmates watched from the other side as protesters waived signs, including "Keep families together," "Make America compassionate again," and "Children are innocent."

The protesters urged Oregonians to tell their elected officials to maintain pressure on Immigration and Customs Enforcement officials and the prison system to allow detainees access to lawyers, clergy and medical care.”

A rally in Southern Oregon last week also captured headlines. Click here for the story. This is a quickly developing story, and Causa has offered a few different ways for people to help out on this important issue:

  • Donate: Innovation Law Lab is raising money for coordination of a massive legal response effort to get Know Your Rights information and access to attorneys to all 123 detainees. Unidos Bridging Community is accepting donations toward support for Sheridan detainees such as commissary funds and phone cards
  • Volunteer: A variety of volunteers are needed to support the legal response effort including legal and mental health professionals and interpreters for multiple languages. Fill out this survey if you would like to volunteer.
  • Sign and Share: Join the petition to #EndFamilySeparation and spread the word via social media.

Victory at Volunteers of America!

This article appears courtesy of AFSCME Now

AFSCME-represented workers at Volunteers of America Oregon (VOA) have reached a tentative agreement after 18 months of contentious negotiations that sparked multiple protests from workers and their union, including a May 14 sit-in that resulted in multiple arrests.

VOA is focused on helping clients to recover from substance abuse and addiction. The 70-person bargaining unit is made up mostly of counselors at two facilities in Portland. Workers began organizing with Oregon AFSCME in 2016 due to low wages, high turnover and because they wanted a stronger voice in client-care decisions. Workers voted 46-3 in favor of joining together under Oregon AFSCME.

Bargaining began in January 2017 and was almost immediately hostile. VOA gave out raises and an extra vacation day to nonunion employees and hired a union-busting firm to negotiate the contract. VOA refused to sign any contract with a “union security” clause, meaning that workers would not have to be part of the union. Workers held rallies last December and April, followed by the May 14 sit-in. The sit-in marked a turning point in the negotiations and showed VOA management that workers will not back down.

Another protest scheduled for June 18 was canceled after VOA relented on its objections to a union security clause and signed the tentative agreement. Workers are expected to vote on the agreement in the next couple of weeks.

This is a big victory for workers at VOA and in the behavioral health industry. The industry relies on high-skilled, low-wage workers to do lifesaving front-line work, while administrators of the mostly nonprofit service providers often make six-figure salaries.

The VOA contract win is 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,” said Alex Rice, a member of the Oregon AFSCME bargaining team. “More than anything, it really showed us that by sticking together and building community support we can fight back and make positive change.”

Thank you, Senators Wyden and Merkley

Last week, Oregon’s U.S. Senators Jeff Merkley and Ron Wyden joined their colleagues in the Senate and House to introduce the Workers’ Freedom to Negotiate Act, legislation that would strengthen workers’ freedom to join unions and negotiate collectively to win better pay and conditions; stiffen penalties on corporations; protect workers’ right to strike; streamline procedures to secure worker freedoms; and protect the integrity of union elections.

“When workers get together to negotiate better wages and working conditions, they get better wages and working conditions—and that is exactly why the privileged and powerful are anti-union,” Merkley said. “The Trump Administration is advancing an agenda to make sure that workers get less and bosses get more, to prevent workers from getting time off when they or their families are sick, and to undermine protections from mistreatment in the workplace. This comprehensive reform bill strengthens those rights for workers—the direction we should be moving to make sure working Americans have a chance to provide for their families and thrive.”

“The best way to stand up for hardworking Americans against Donald Trump’s all-out assault on workers’ rights is with an all-out defense of long-standing workplace protections that support good-paying jobs for workers and their families,” Wyden said. “This legislation would build that comprehensive workplace defense by protecting and preserving essential rights to bargain collectively for fair pay and workplace conditions, penalizing corporations trying to squelch worker protections and ensuring unions are treated fairly.”

The legislation is part of the Democrats’ economic agenda, “A Better Deal.” As the income inequality gap reaches the highest levels since the Great Depression, many middle class families are finding it increasingly difficult to achieve basic economic security.

The Democrats’ legislation helps address rising inequality and related challenges in obtaining a quality education, safe housing, sustainable work, and a secure retirement.

The Better Deal legislation comes as the Trump administration and Republican leadership continue their efforts to maximize corporate profits through their tax giveaway to the richest few and largest corporations and the rollback of crucial labor rights designed to protect the American worker.

See a fact sheet on the legislation here. See the text of the legislation here.

Important Events on June 23

For years, Oregonians have been kept in the dark about exactly how much corporations pay in taxes as our corporate tax rate has dropped to among the lowest in the nation. With your help, we can change that.

Join us in Portland, Bend and Ashland on June 23  (and Medford on June 21) to gather signatures to put Initiative Petition 25 onto the November ballot.

What is IP 25? IP 25 requires publicly traded corporations to provide voters and lawmakers a public record of their Oregon taxes. This is a critical step toward making Oregon’s tax system fair and for us to be able to properly fund our education, healthcare, infrastructure improvements and other vital services that working people depend on.


  • Saturday, June 23, 10:00 a.m.
    Oregon AFL-CIO, 3645 SE 32nd Ave in Portland
    RSVP required: Email Alma Raya to sign up: alma@oraflcio.org


  • Saturday, June 23, 11:30 a.m.
    Crow’s Feet Commons,  69 NW Wall St #4 in Bend
    RSVP required: Email Noah Goldberg-Jaffe to sign up: noah@oraflcio.org


  • June 21, Medford Thursday Market
    Hawthorne Park across from Parkside Cafe, 99 Hawthorne Street, Medford
    Training begins at 8:30 a.m.
  • June 23: Ashland Saturday Market
    Downtown Plaza, North Main Street, Ashland
    Training begins at 8:30 a.m.
    RSVP required: Contact Evan Lasley at (541) 890-7545 or evan@oraflcio.org