e-lert No. 22 ¥
Oct. 30, 2013
Edited by Don Loving, Oregon
AFSCME Communications Director
A group of about 25 Local 3932 members
and AFSCME staffers brought about the end of the federal government shutdown.
That's our story and we're stickin' to it! Also, we've got lots of people
running for lots of offices — including a new challenger for U.S. Sen.
Jeff Merkley. There's also a handful of incumbents saying "No mas" ...
and we have some other political/legislative odds and ends to pass on as well,
plus the sad news of the passing of a good AFSCME friend. Welcome to the e-lert!
HEY, WE'RE CLAIMING
CREDIT — It was, apparently,
the most effective AFSCME demonstration ever. Hours after members of Local 3932
(Oregon Military Department) gathered on the state capitol steps Oct. 16 in
Salem, Congress voted to end the federal government shutdown.
All right, just maybe the timing was coincidental. In all seriousness, the
200 or so Local 3932 members who were furloughed on Oct. 1 are breathing a sigh
of relief. They're going back to work, and they won't see their health care
coverage interrupted in November.
Local 3932 members at OMD
faced a unique situation. They are civilian state employees of the Military Department. However, the
vast majority of their wages and benefits are paid for through federal funding,
and a unique clause in their contract allows for immediate furlough if there's
an "interruption" in that funding. Such was the case when Uncle Sam shut down
on Oct. 1.
Wages were one issue. It's
tough to go unpaid for two weeks — though the bill passed by Congress
indicates furloughed workers will receive back pay. Many Local 3932 members
were cautiously optimistic they'd receive their missing wages back, as was the
case in a previous shutdown. Perhaps the larger concern was health insurance
coverage. Their state contract dictates 80 hours must be worked in a month for
employees to receive health care benefits the next month. The clock was ticking
on that clause, which was the key impetus behind the capitol rally.
"It was important that the
state stepped up and covered our insurance for November," said Local 3932
President Dave Arnold. "We are
state employees, and while the situation isn't the state's fault, we are
The state had balked at
picking up that tab initially. But discussions continued. The morning of Oct.
16, Council 75 Executive Director Ken Allen and other AFSCME representatives met with OMD and
Department of Administrative Services officials, again requesting a letter of
agreement to cover the members' insurance coverage. All indications were that
such an agreement would emerge at the 11th hour, but Congress' vote
made the issue a moot point. OMD employees head back to work Oct. 18, right on
the deadline to hit the 80-hour requirement.
The action couldn't come
soon enough for the members. Tonya Maddox's son was helping her pay bills through his part-time job at Taco Bell.
Ken Hill was hit with a double
whammy. He was furloughed through his job at OMD, and his wife works for the
USDA, so she, too, was off work.
"We were facing a really
difficult situation," said Hill. "We would have lost all coverage. I was trying
to stock up on my prescriptions."
* * *
LOOKING FOR LITIGANTS — The PERS reforms passed by the Legislature's
special session earlier this month gave the PERS Coalition an opportunity to
revise its original lawsuit against the first batch of reforms (SB 822) passed
in the regular session. We could use a Tier 3 (OPSRP) retiree to add to the suit.
Such a person is somewhat rare — they would have began work in a
PERS-covered job later in life after the 2003 reforms, worked 8-9 years and
then retired. But they're out there. If you are one, or you know one, please e-mail Don Loving, the Council 75
* * *
MOVIN' ON UP? — It didn't take long for state Rep. Jason
Conger (R-Bend) to decide Salem is
not for him. Conger, a freshman Oregon legislator in 2013, has announced he's
running for the U.S. Senate seat currently held by Sen. Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.).
At this writing, Conger does
have the most name familiarity in what looks to be a crowded Republican field.
Three other political first-timers have announced their candidacies — Bend
businessman Sam Carpenter, former
Linn County GOP Chair Jo Rae Perkins and a Salem information technology specialist, Mark Callahan. Monica Wehby, a Portland pediatric surgeon, is reportedly also considering a run.
But even if Conger appears
to have the upper hand in the May 2014 GOP primary, he faces a long, uphill
battle in unseating the popular incumbent, Merkley. Merkley is certain to
garner strong union support — he would have anyway, plus Conger's
election platform for the Oregon House was mostly centered on anti-PERS
"Jeff Merkley has been a
great friend to AFSCME and to all unions during his first term in Congress,"
said Allen. "We have an outstanding working relationship with Sen. Merkley and
his staff, and I anticipate that will continue for many years into the future."
Council 75 Political
Director Joe Baessler echoed
"What's unique about our
relationship with Sen. Merkley is that we aren't always the one contacting
him," said Baessler. "Frequently we hear from the senator or his staff on an
important issue before we've
reached out to him. He is very in-tune to our issues and concerns."
Baessler says Merkley is
doing exactly what Oregonians want their elected Congressional leaders to do:
working hard for the middle class.
"Sen. Merkley fights to
create good paying jobs, make college more affordable and crack down on the
predatory practices of Wall Street and the big banks," said Baessler. "He has a
virtual 100 percent voting record for labor in Congress, and he'll be a shoo-in
for our endorsement next year based on his performance in Washington."
* * *
CHECK THAT ADDRESS — Conger's announcement immediately set off a
flurry of potential candidates to replace him in Salem. Former Rep. Judy
Stiegler may throw her hat in the
ring again — she held the Bend seat for one term before Conger defeated
her in 2012. Other Bend-area Democrats have made noises about running as well.
On the Republican side,
Central Oregon physician Knute Buehler said he may run. Buehler ran a credible first-time campaign for Oregon
Secretary of State last year, but discovered he has a problem in running for
Conger's seat: he doesn't live in Oregon House District 54 after the 2010
redistricting. Deschutes County officials say Buehler would have to move about
seven blocks to be back in Conger's district.
* * *
THAT DARN LIBERAL GREG
WALDEN — Merkley isn't the
only Oregon congressman facing a new opponent. U.S. Rep. Greg Walden (R-Ore.) will be challenged in next year's
Republican primary election by current Klamath County Commission Chair Dennis
Linthicum. Linthicum's beef with
Walden? In so many words, he doesn't believe Walden is conservative enough.
Walden represents Oregon's
sprawling U.S. House District 2, which represents everything east of Hood River
and all the way down south to Medford. Walden is a Hood River native and has
been the District 2 Oregon rep since 1999. His voting record on AFSCME and/or
labor issues in general would indicate he's plenty conservative, though he usually
will at least talk to the union on issues.
Linthicum was elected to the
Klamath County Commission, his first public office, in 2010. He did so with
strong Tea Party support. Linthicum is supported by a national organization
called Club For Growth, an ultra-conservative group looking to oust incumbent
Republicans from Congress that they consider too soft. Linthicum would seem to
face a huge uphill climb to defeat Walden, but Club For Growth will likely
spend heavily on Linthicum's behalf.
* * *
SENATE SHUFFLE — State Sen. Jackie Dingfelder (D-Portland) is resigning her seat to go to work for
Portland Mayor Charlie Hales as a
policy director. Dingfelder has been in the House and then Senate since 2001.
She begins work for Hales on Nov. 4.
While several people
initially expressed interest in Dingfelder's seat, the person with the inside
track appears to be state Rep. Michael Dembrow (D-Portland). Dembrow's House District 45 makes up
half of Dingfelder's Senate District 23. The other half, House District 46,
belong to Rep. Alissa Keny-Guyer
(D-Portland). Keny-Guyer also expressed interest in Dingfelder's soon-to-be
vacant seat, but said she would cede to Dembrow, who has legislative seniority,
kf he opted to seek the upper chamber position. After a couple days of mulling
it over, Dembrow announced he would indeed seek the Senate seat.
Under Oregon law, the
Multnomah County Democrats (because Dingfelder is a Democrat) may submit
between three and five names of possible replacements to the Multnomah County
Board of Commissioners, which makes the official replacement decision. While
the board can pick whomever it chooses, sitting legislators are almost always
the ones selected in such situations. Expect to see Senator Dembrow at the 2014 session.
* * *
BATTLE IN BENTON — There's a big battle shaping up next year in
Senate District 8 (Benton and Linn counties), where incumbent state Sen. Betsy
Close (R-Albany) will be challenged
by longtime legislator Rep. Sara Gelser (D-Corvallis).
Close was appointed to fill
the unexpired term of former Sen. Frank Morse (R-Albany) last year when Morse resigned his seat.
Close had previously served six years in the Oregon House. Many expected her to
make another run at the Benton County Board of Commissioners — she was in
that contest in 2012 when she received the Senate appointment. But she has
chosen to seek election to a full term in the Oregon Senate.
Close will face a formidable
opponent in Gelser, House District 16's popular representative since 2005 and
current chair of the House Education Committee. Gelser has a good AFSCME voting
record, whereas Close has rarely sided with the union on issues. And while
Benton and Linn counties are generally considered to lean "conservative" in
nature, registered Democrats actually outnumber registered Republicans by about
6,600. As always, non-affiliated voters will have a large say in the outcome
— this will be one of the key races to watch come November 2014.
* * *
NOT RUNNING — Amidst the cloud of who's running where, two
incumbent legislators recently announced they won't be seeking re-election come
Rep. Chris Harker (D-Portland) was appointed in June 2008 to fill the unexpired
term of then-state representative (and now Congresswoman) Suzanne Bonamici, who
had been appointed to the Senate. Harker won election to the seat in 2010 and
2012, but says he's had enough and won't run again. Harker's House District 34
is in the Portland West Hills and runs out toward Beaverton in Washington
County, so it could be contested — it's not an inner-city, automatic
"Portland D" district.
running again in 2014 is Rep. Vicki Berger (R-Salem), who has represented House District 20 since
2002. The race to replace Berger will be closely watched. She is one of the GOP's
more moderate members, and she's won election to the Legislature several times
despite District 20 having a Democrat registration advantage. District 20 will
surely be a targeted race for the Oregon Democrats.
* * *
COUNTY CHAIR CONUNDRUM — Local 88 members in Multnomah County are
keeping their eye on the upcoming battle for the county's top spot. Following
the well-chronicled resignation of Jeff Cogen, Marissa Madrigal has temporarily moved into the chair's seat. She's
been adamant, however, that she is not a permanent candidate, and will move
back to her county administrator position. The person everyone expected to run,
former state legislator and current county commissioner Deborah Kafoury, was barred from formally announcing her candidacy
by a quirky Multnomah County rule that bars current officeholders from seeking
the chair's position.
Kafoury had hoped to tread
water for as long as possible, but former Portland City Councilor and mayoral
candidate Jim Francesconi forced
her hand when he threw his hat into the ring. Francesconi, like Kafoury, has
good name recognition, and political pundits opined that Kafoury could not
afford to stay out of the race until next spring as she had hoped, if for no
other reason than to begin fundraising. They proved to be correct, as Kafoury
recently resigned her commission seat in order to formally file for the chair's
position, to be contested in the May 2014 primary.
Other tidbits to this story:
- Local 88 President Michael Hanna has said his union "won't be in any hurry" to
make an endorsement in the chair's race, and will likely wait for the
smoke to clear a bit in the spring.
- Oregon AFSCME old-timers may recall that back in
the late 1980s, Francesconi, who is an attorney, would set up shop in the
Council's old Portland Road office in Salem once a week and deal with
worker's comp issues.
- The domino effect from Kafoury's resignation
will reach the Oregon Legislature. State Rep. Jules Bailey (D-Portland) will forego seeking re-election to
his House District 42 seat, opting instead to try and replace Kafoury on
the county commission.
* * *
STRIKING BACK — Oregon AFSCME and the Service Employees
International Union (SEIU) are taking a pro-active approach to a possible 2014
so-called "right to work" ballot initiative in Oregon by filing a pair of
Baessler is the official
filer of a measure that would allow public employees to negotiate agreements
requiring all employees who receive the benefits of union representation to
share in the costs of that representation. Arthur Towers, Baessler's counterpart at SEIU, has his name on a
proposed initiative that would restrict the ability of employers and their
employees to negotiate and agree upon terms governing payroll deductions.
The language in the two
proposals, IP (Initiative Petition) 44 and IP 45 for now, would trump the
wording of IP 9, the "Public Employee Choice Act" sponsored by a Portland labor
management attorney with Big Business dollars behind her.
Under Oregon law, if competing
initiatives on the same subject appear on the same ballot, the measure with the
most votes wins. Ergo, should IP 9 pass, if IP 44 or 45 also pass and by a
wider margin, either one would in effect supersede IP 9.
[Under Oregon's initiative
and referendum system, proposed initiative measures begin with the IP numbers,
then are assigned ballot measure numbers once/if they qualify for the ballot.]
The two unions will soon
begin collecting the 1,000 signatures required to initially start the ballot
measure process. But that's just the beginning of a long process that may or
may not move forward, and will take months if it does.
"We are still a long ways
from deciding if these will go forward," said Baessler. "But we wanted members
to know about them, because they may very well hear about them in the media."
Indeed, the two proposals
have already been a topic of discussion by Oregonian political reporter Jeff Mapes.
* * *
NEW NAME, NEW CHARGE — Changes are coming to Local 1246 members who
work for the State-Operated Community Program (SOCP) — including, among
other things, a new agency name and acronym to learn.
The Stabilization and Crisis
Unit (SCU) will soon be the official new moniker for what many Council 75
veterans still refer to as "the old Fairview local." Beginning with its first
community group home that went online in 1990, SOCP mushroomed when the
Fairview Training Center in South Salem was shuttered in 2000, sending many
dual-diagnosed IDD clients to private group homes, but directing the most
difficult behavioral and medically fragile clients to the state program. A vast
majority of the original SOCP employees had worked at Fairview.
But things are changing, and
Local 1246 recently hosting several informational meetings with state
legislators to explain those changes.
The soon-retiring Colleen
Savage was a Fairview manager for
several years before she jumped the fence and became the Local 1246 AFSCME
staff rep in 1984. At recent sessions in the Eugene, Salem and Portland AFSCME
offices, she explained to gathered lawmakers the SOCP's history and how things
are rapidly changing.
"We started out with the 150
or so clients who had the most drastic behavioral issues, and the most
medically challenged," she said. "Some 25 years later, many of the difficult
clients have mellowed with age, as we all do, and can now be handled in the
private group homes. Most of the medically fragile, frankly, have simply passed
away. But in their place, we're seeing a new dynamic — younger, shrewder,
bigger, stronger clients that place our aging staff in difficult positions."
Local 1246 Past President Brain
Lewis writes behavior programs for
clients. He told legislators in both locations that the new clientele brings
with it "an intensity that's 30 to 40 times what the original Fairview clients
had." SOCP is receiving clients directly from the Department of Corrections in
some instances, other times from the Oregon State Hospital, and even on
occasion directly off the streets.
"One side issue is we have
numerous clients misplaced," Lewis told legislators. "We [at SOCP] have people
who should be in Corrections. Corrections has people who should be at the state
hospital. But we seem to end up with more than our share of the overly
Current Local 1246 President
Matt Orser asked lawmakers at the
Salem meeting to not be misinformed by agency statistics that say staff
injuries are down.
"The raw numbers may be
down, but the intensity and seriousness of the injuries are way up," he noted.
Orser says Local 1246
intends to introduce legislation that will better allow staff to defend
themselves and restrain clients without running afoul of Oregon's wide-ranging
"abuse" statutes. Lewis noted that SOCP employees need to be moved into a PERS
tier such as the Police & Fire tier, where workers are eligible for
retirement after 25, rather than 30, years.
"You can't physically do
this job at the age you are after 30 years," he said.
* * *
MONICA SMITH MEMORIAL — Some 500 people gathered on Oct. 26 to say
farewell to noted labor attorney Monica Smith, who lost a three-year battle with cancer on Oct. 9.
She passed away at her home amongst family.
Smith was a union side labor
lawyer for many years with the law firm Kulongoski Heid Durham and Drummonds,
and then its successor firm Bennett & Hartman, followed by Smith, Gamson,
Diamond & Olney.
The Smith, Gamson firm was
for many years Oregon AFSCME's primary outside legal counsel.
"Monica was a tremendous
attorney that did a lot to help members from our union for years and years,"
said Allen. "We offer our condolences to the family, along with the many others
who loved Monica."
Most recently, Smith spent
several years as the bargaining coordinator for the Oregon Education
"She was for many people a
deeply beloved sister," says Barbara Diamond, one of her former legal partners. "Part of me is
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