Oregon AFL-CIO Weekly Update: From the Shop Floor to the Capitol
April 24, 2019
Expanding Prevailing Wage Law: Big Step Forward, More Work to Do
Construction workers across the state realized a substantial milestone at the Oregon Capitol last week. House Bill 2408 passed the House after years of work by the Oregon State Building Trades Council. If signed into law, major construction projects in enterprise zones would be required to adhere to prevailing wage standards. Typically, enterprise zones allow corporations to undercut quality union construction jobs.
Representative Julie Fahey, chief proponent of the bill, said on the House floor, “Academic research indicates that when a project pays a prevailing wage, it’s more likely that in-state contractors will be hired, which keeps more of the economic benefit from the project and the public funds right here at home. Studies show that paying prevailing wage on a project does not increase the total cost of the project. The higher wages means that more experienced, more skilled workers are hired.”
Most people aren’t aware of how enterprise zones are defined, and many have never heard of prevailing wages. Enterprise zones are an area in which incentives, such as regulatory exemptions or tax concessions, are offered to encourage economic development and business investment. Oregon's prevailing wage law was passed in 1959, and refers to the hourly wages, benefits and overtime paid to workers within a certain area and established by unions and the Bureau of Labor and Industries. They were designed to counteract free market forces and to lead the country out of economic decline. To this day, they serve the same purpose and remain an important feature of our state and national economy.
House Bill 2408 now moves to the Oregon Senate. We will continue to support our Building Trades affiliates' efforts to send this bill to the Governor's desk.
Fighting Against Harassment and Discrimination in the Workplace
Here's our press statement from earlier this week on the Senate's passage of SB 726:
For too long, workers – especially women and workers of color – have faced discrimination and harassment in the workplace. At least one out of every four women in the workplace have experienced sexual harassment, and as many as 94% of employees experiencing harassment do not file a formal complaint. Of the women who did report harassment, 75% experienced retaliation. Now, Oregon is one step closer to reforming the way discrimination and harassment is dealt with in workplaces across the state.
On April 9, the Senate Committee on Workforce passed Senate Bill 726, the Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, with bipartisan support. Today, State Senators have stood with Oregon’s workers, passing the Bill by a vote of 23-6. The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, SB 726 takes several important steps to protect workers from harassment and discrimination:
- Prevents employers from asking for nondisclosure agreements that relate to discrimination at the time of hiring, and during settlement and severance negotiations;
- Prevents employers from requesting provisions that prevent the rehiring of previously discriminated-against employees during settlement, severance, and separation agreements;
- Extends Statute of Limitations for discrimination in employment situations to 5 years;
- Directs the Bureau of Labor and Industries to create policies and procedures for employers/employees that relate to discrimination;
- Ensures that where employers have made a good faith determination that discrimination has occurred, any severance given to the harasser, if an executive, may be rendered unenforceable.
“It is appalling that a woman or other vulnerable population could risk losing their livelihood should they choose to report or seek remedy for harassment, discrimination, or sexual assault in the workplace,” said State Senator Kathleen Taylor. “An inherent power imbalance exists between an employer and employee in these situations and Senate Bill 726 works to address that imbalance, and make certain victims know-well the options available should someone perpetrate one of these horrific acts against them.”
“Addressing workplace discrimination and harassment is a matter of basic fairness. I’m proud to have worked on this critical legislation. It’s time for a culture change in how workers, especially women are treated in the workplace and Senate Bill 726 is a crucial component to making that a reality,” said State Senator Tim Knopp.
The Oregon Workplace Fairness Act, Senate Bill 726, is a critical change in policy to ensure workers who experience discrimination and harassment in the workplace can seek remedy. As Oregon’s Labor Movement, we look forward to working with elected representatives to continue to guarantee a more fair and just economy for all workers. Senate Bill 726 now heads to the Oregon House of Representatives.
UFCW Local 555 Moves Forward With Strike Authorizations
“Employers aren’t paying us enough and the meat department is not amused,” reads the UFCW Local 555 Facebook event. The union is calling all Albertsons, Safeway, and Fred Meyer members of the Portland area meat contract to attend 1 of 3 strike authorization votes.
The votes are a result of worker complaints and shop organizing. Some of the employees in the comments section of the social media event said:
Brandon Even though I don’t work in the meat department I support this. This company makes millions of dollars........they give managers a 5 % raise for meeting goals. What do [we] get for meeting our goals?
Morgan I saw one of the managers bonus checks and I was shocked!! Like seriously what the hell. Managers get bonuses and can take time off and yet when one of us call in sick or say we have a family emergency we either get laughed at or made to feel as though we are the scum of the earth.
Adam Whole Foods Market You should see this, hide it all you want, you work people till death then abandon them.
High end grocer, low end morality.
Portland-area meat contract strike vote meetings will be:
Monday, May 20th at 8am, 1pm, and 6pm at Embassy Suites Hotel, 9000 SW Washington Square Rd.
- Tuesday, May 21st at 8am, 1pm, and 6pm at Joe Edgar Hall, Teamsters Local 162, 1850 NE 162nd Ave.
- Thursday, May 23 at 8am, 1pm, and 6pm at Veterans Memorial Coliseum, Georgia Pacific Rm., 300 Winning Way
Fighting Back Against PERS Attacks
Oregon AFSCME is on the front lines of defending public employees' retirement. Multiple bills and ballot initiatives have been filed that would affect PERS, most of them punitive against employees without actually addressing the major challenges facing the system. Read Tom Chamberlain’s latest on the subject here.
But the public is pushing back. On April 18, union members delivered thousands of PERS cards to their legislators asking them "to protect PERS and keep the promise made to current and future public employees." And Oregon AFSCME is hosting another PERS lobby day tomorrow, April 25.
Mark Your Calendars!
Worker Memorial Day - The Oregon AFL-CIO will hold the annual memorial service in observance of Workers Memorial Day at the Fallen Worker Memorial on the State Capitol Mall in Salem on Friday, April 26th at noon.
Portland Pride Parade - June 16. The Oregon AFL-CIO and affiliates will be marching in the parade in solidarity with the LGBTQ community. If you are interested in marching or being involved in planning, please contact Emily@oraflcio.org.