May Bargaining Update

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Updates: 31-May-2009

Update: Be sure to check the comments for ongoing updates about this month's bargaining.

We're back to the Central Bargaining Table tomorrow, May 4th. What can be expected? That's hard-to-tell. 

There was a state wide action day on April 27th. This included many people calling Scott Harra, the Director of DAS. The calls were asking him to move forward with bargaining. In other words, tell Eva Corbin to stop stalling and work with us, rather than obstructing the process.

It will be interesting to see if those calls had any real effect on the process. We are still waiting for the updated budget forecast. You remember,..the $4.4-4.6 Billion deficit that we're currently facing for the next biennium. Since that update doesn't come out until May 15th,  they may continue to stall until the Central Bargaining Table session that starts onf May 18th.

We'll continue to update as any news comes to us. If any of you hear something, feel free to update everyone as well.

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

The question comes up, "Why would DAS bargain before the updated economic forecast?" Good question.

Let's start with why they wouldn't bargain the important economic areas:

  • The updated forecast hasn't come out yet.
  • They haven't figured out how to try and take more from us since we balked at their last "deal."
  • Eva Corbin isn't known for her love of Labor, so let them squirm.

Now, why should they bargain the important things:

  • It shows good faith in bargaining.
  • The expected $4.4-4.6 Billion dollar shortfall has been known for weeks. If things were looking significantly worse, someone probably would have noted it by now.
  • The agency Directors have all turned in their 30% program cut recommendations. We know what things will look like given the expected shortfall.
  • Everyone knows things are tough, and we want to move on, so why drag this out? Even without knowing an exact amount, we can work with the (significant) numbers we have. With only 3 possible outcomes on the budget, what's the worst that can happen to any tentative numbers we work out?
    • If the budget comes in as expected, we'll be close and won't have to make a mad scramble to work on the hard decisions at the last minute.
    • The budget forecast is better-than-expected, so they could look like heroes and come back with appropriately smaller cuts, or whatever, than had previously been worked out.
    • The worst case--the forecast is worse than expected. So they have to come back and say, "sorry, things are worse than we thought, and we're going to have to cut some more." Rather than having to make all the cuts at this point, we'd have already worked out a large portion of the cuts, and would only have to negotiate adjustments.

So let's hope those calls to Scott Harra had some positive effect! It's time to move forward and start doing the hard work of negotiating that management gets paid to do. Us poor represented folks? We have to do it all on our own time.

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

A little slow, but the message that came out on Monday showed that, as expected, nothing significant happened on the money front.

We are back at the table today and tomorrow tackling more aspects of the contract, though it is clear there will be no meaningful movement on economics until after the May 15 state revenue forecast is released. An update on these sessions will be posted on the web Wednesday.

In the interim we are revving up our campaign for a fair contract on three critical fronts: at the legislature, in our worksites, and in communication with those we serve -- the general public -- through paid ads and earned media.

Dozens of state and university workers testified before regional meetings of the Joint Legislative Ways and Means Committee in the past two weeks speaking out about the need to maintain the quality services we provide. SEIU members urged legislators to make sure that workers and those we serve don't shoulder an unfair burden during this economic downturn.

Our first radio and newspaper ads have run in select areas to draw attention to how badly budget cuts would harm the services we provide. Click here <> to see the print version of the ad. The radio version will be posted soon. We will continue to find opportunities to advocate for funding for quality services with legislators and the public particularly after revenue forecast is released and budget negotiations intensify. If you are interested in testifying before a committee or attending a legislative town hall, contact your SEIU organizer.

Workers at state agencies and on university campuses across Oregon paused for "unity breaks" April 27 as part of a "Day of Action" that included hundreds of phone calls to the men directing negotiations for the state and the Oregon University System. Members of SEIU Local 503 left a simple message for Director of Administrative Services Scott Harra and Vice Chancellor Jay Kenton: We and the community members we serve are willing to share in the sacrifices required to balance Oregon's budget but not bear an unfair share of the burden. Click here <> to see a slideshow of actions from around Oregon.

Our next day of action is Thursday, May 14th. Members who work on the Capitol Mall will be rallying in front of the Human Services Building at noon. Around the state, members are organizing worksite actions and noon rallies to show support for adequate funding and a fair contract. For more information about the action in your workplace, talk to your union steward or SEIU organizer.

We will follow these actions with a statewide rally and march for all members and their families and supporters in downtown Portland Sunday afternoon, June 7th. More details on this event will be available soon!

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

The latest bargaining update brings no real surprises. As expected, DAS didn't move forward at all. Not even on non-economic issues.

We had two days of bargaining last week, days best described as frustrating and uneventful.  Management made no changes in their terrible economic proposal (26 furlough days, including 15 on holidays; step freeze; no COLA's; elimination of the tenth step, etc.).  Our discussions at the bargaining table focused on smaller issues, like grievance procedure timelines and trial service periods, but even on these issues, we did not reach any tentative agreements.   Our bargaining team was especially outraged that management rejected our proposal to extend recall rights for laid-off employees from two to three years.  At a time when some layoffs seem inevitable, this small change would provide some added protection for laid-off workers and cost the State nothing!

Mid-May will be an important period in our contract campaign, for three reasons:

1.On May 14, members will participate in worksite actions throughout the state.  Please save the date and check with your steward, organizer, or union activists in your worksite for details.

2. On May 15, we expect the State's economist to issue a new revenue forecast.  The size of the budget deficit will have a large impact on our bargaining and our ability to prevent major layoffs of state employees.  The February revenue forecast projected a budget hole of $3.1 billion, but all evidence points to a much deeper hole in the May forecast.

3. Shortly after the budget forecast, we expect the Legislature's Ways and Means Committee to issue its recommended budget, which will give us an indication of how deep the cuts and layoffs will be.  The Ways and Means Committee's budget will also show us how serious the legislature is about raising new revenue through changes in tax rates for corporations and the wealthy.  No matter what, we expect devastating cuts in public services and significant numbers of layoffs.  But a budget that raises new revenue will blunt those cuts, reduce the impact on services and jobs, and increase our ability to negotiate a just contract in which our sacrifices are balanced and equitable.

We return to the bargaining table on May 18 and 19th. In addition, our statewide rally in Portland is June 7.  We will have buses coming from all over the state, so hold the date!

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

This latest update really doesn't do justice to how bad this is.

DAS continues to not bargain in good faith. They aren't making any headway at all. While it might be understandable to not focus on the budget-related items, it makes no sense from a good faith standpoint, to not move forward in other areas.  It seems like we should just call their bluff. The rules change if they don't bargain in good faith.

And how can SEIU 503 put out such old numbers for the projected shortfall? It's ludicrous! We've known for months that the estimated shortfall is already in the $4+ Billion range! Art Towers presented similar numbers 2 months ago to the Board of Directors. The Governor's Office asked for estimated 30% program cuts from the Agency Directors (which covers that $4+ Billion range).

I can't fathom what purpose it serves for the union to hide the numbers we do have. They're not exactly a secret. They even go on to predict "devastating cuts in public services and significant numbers of layoffs."

So, they don't sugar-coat things in their third bullet-point. Absolutely the Ways and Means Committee will be issuing their recommended budget. It's not like they can just say, "No, we're not going to do it this year." And it's not like they haven't been working on it for months. They'll just be to the point of finalizing it.

Which brings us to the point about new revenue. Don't count on it!!! Whatever they may come up with, I'm certain it will be a mere pittance--like the amount we'll save by taking 26 furlough days!!! On top of which, don't expect it to save jobs. We can already see what the Agency Directors have allocated. Any additional funds that may become available are likely to go primarily to the services provided by the various programs.

Remember, some agencies started layoff proceedings before the previous budget forecast! Many areas of management are certain to be looking at this as an opportunity to cull-the-herd and get rid of the undesirables. Never mind if that violates your contract. I'm sure they'll have a good reason!

See you all on the unemployment line! Oh, wait, there won't be anyone working to take care of that.... See you all on the streets!

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

There's a slew of new updates. I'm a little behind, so I'll post them all now.

Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

On May 20th, there was a Bargaining Update. Note that I've removed the e-mail address listed. You should be able to get it from your local leadership.

***************Bargaining Update*******************
Good morning,
   We had movement from management this week, but I cannot say that it was good.  We had expected new proposals about core issues and received a message of no change from what was offered previously.  The state still wants; no cost of living increases, a freeze on steps, not to implement the tenth step (which begins July 1, 09) and we now know that the state is planning on up to 1,700 workers being laid off according to the Governor's and the Ways and Means Budgets.  (They have not said who will be laid off or from which facilities and programs). 
   The state took a baby step and has agreed to the principle that FU (furlough unpaid) also called MUTO (mandatory unpaid time off) should be tiered so that our lowest paid members will be asked to take fewer days than our higher paid members.  The problem is that they have not thought through how this is to be implemented.  We have an opportunity to offer our plan which is a reason to feel hopeful.  The bargaining team is preparing a response, so send your suggestions to [e-mail address removed] and I will pass them along to other bargaining team members.
   We are now in mediation with the state as part of the bargaining process.  This ups the ante a little and makes it clear that the state is preparing for a very tough end game on this contract.  We are ready and will continue seeking member input in the days and weeks ahead. 
   What you have been doing, are doing and can do in the next six weeks will be critical to let management and the state know that we are not just going to accept what they give us, but they we are standing up for a fair contract.  I am always reminded that management counts how many folks take part in union activities because we see a change in how the state talks with us at the bargaining table after a big action.  The May 14 actions which took place throughout the state made a difference. 
   I hope you are planning to come to the Rally in Portland on June 7.  Buses will be coming in from all over the state for this statewide March and Rally.  We need to join together and show the state that we are serious about a fair contract.  Your being there will make a difference as we work together for a fair contract. 
   Start thinking about your work site actions for June 30, the last day of the contract.  That will be another opportunity for us to strut our stuff and give the state a clear message.  Unity breaks, a petition for management, an informational picket, purple shirts and purple in the workplace are only a few of the things you can do.  Let me know what you plan to do and if you can take pictures to share on the SEIU website.
   Members of the bargaining team are traveling throughout the state next week to meet with members and local leaders.  We will be talking about the process so far, where we are at now and next steps.


Scott's picture

Re: May Bargaining Update

And the DAS bargaining update from May 20th.

We completed two days of bargaining Tuesday. Mediator Bob Nightingale entered negotiations for the first time Monday, and much of the day was spent bringing Bob up to speed.

Tuesday, the State did revise its furlough proposal. Gone, thankfully, is the concept of 15 unpaid holidays as furlough days. Happy Thanksgiving and Merry Christmas!

Instead, the State is now proposing that the third Friday of each month be a furlough day. Some, based on salary ranges, "might" have to take fewer furlough days (SR 0-15: ten days; SR 16-21: sixteen days; SR 22-26: twenty
days; SR 27+ twenty-four days). We say "might" because frankly, this entire concept does not appear to have been thought out very well.

When we sought clarification, State negotiators began to backtrack and said that employees subject to the lower numbers of furlough days would be required to use vacation time to be paid for office closure days! Their lack of clarity was uncomfortable to watch. It seemed as if they were making some of it up as we went along.

One aspect of their proposal was a significant step backwards. They proposed replacing furloughs with equivalent pay cuts for some workers that the state would rather not furlough-including many workers in 24/7
institutions and selected other job classifications as well. You can guess how well that went over!

We did sign off on six relatively non-controversial articles and will return to bargaining on June 1.

Much of the action in the past week has occurred away from the bargaining table with the release of the Legislative Ways & Means Co-Chairs' Budget Monday on the heels of the May economic forecast for the next biennium and the Governor's speech to the Portland City Club Friday.

The state economic forecast was a shade better than the most dire predications. But in this budget climate, with a $4.2B shortfall, all victories are relative. We have whittled down the proposed layoffs of state workers from 6,600 (in the agencies' previous cuts list) to 1700. Thanks in
large part to lobbying by SEIU members and staff, in SEIU-represented agencies the total number of projected layoffs is now below 900, but that number is still unacceptable (especially since the workload of remaining employees will go through the roof if these layoffs happen). In addition,
3,800 homecare workers and 1,800 child care providers who are SEIU members are now threatened with layoffs.

The co-chairs' budget also includes $800 million in new revenue from higher taxes on corporations and wealthy families earning over $250,000 a year, for which our members advocated in order to reduced program cuts. As bad as things look, they would probably look a lot worse but for the concerted efforts of members and staff throughout the legislative session and especially in recent weeks at the legislative forums around the state, in our worksite actions May 14.

We will need to redouble those efforts in the days and weeks ahead if we are to further reduce the number of layoffs and the impact of service cuts.  We will also have to make a strong case for fair treatment at the bargaining table, where we have said from the start that we are willing to do our
share. Earlier this week, we sent legislators a reminder that "About 1 of 4 represented workers in state government earn less than $30,000 per year and about 1 in 6 earn less than the food stamp limit for a family of four. If steep concessions are forced on front-line state workers, we are simply moving people from behind the food stamp counter to in front of the food stamp counter."

Against this backdrop, our statewide march and rally in Portland is June 7 is becoming all the more important. We have assembled some wonderful co-sponsors -- the Keep Oregon Working coalition (including OEA and AFSCME
and AARP), the Campaign for Oregon's Seniors and People with Disabilities, Children First for Oregon, Jobs with Justice, the Oregon PTA, KBOO radio and the Oregon Food Bank -- but we have to be there in large numbers to make our case. Buses will be leaving that morning from every corner of the state. If you have not signed up, please go to our web site and do so now. And bring
your family and friends. Everybody -- and every body - counts!

This message is from the SEIU Local 503
Member Alert System.


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Re: May Bargaining Update

We've also had word that the Human Services Coalition table has concluded bargaining.

Don't get too excited. Remember, it's only that one table. The main bargaining, over the $$$money$$$, is taking place at the Central Bargaining table. That bargaining is still ongoing.

The outcome of the bargaining? A total of six (6) articles were modified. A couple of the changes bring OED into alignment with everyone else so that the same language now applies to the entire coalition. Nothing earth-shattering at all.

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Re: May Bargaining Update

News from May 18th.

The budget projections are out.  The money is about what had been predicted by SEIU's political team.  On Monday when we go back to the bargaining table we will find out what this will mean for state workers. 

   I have attached a story from today's Statesman Journal about the budget.  It provides a good outline of what is predicted for the next two years. 
   What the story does not say is that the Republican's Budget proposal is to cut state worker's salaries and benefits to avoid reducing services.  The Democrat's proposal requires that corporations and people making over $250,000 a year pay more in taxes. 
   Please wear purple whenever you can.  Tell your managers that you deserve a fair contract.  Plan to attend and participate in the United for Oregon March on Sunday, June 7 in Portland.  Contact your leadership or organizer for more details.
Budget forecast

Economist: State is $3.8 billion short

By Peter Wong . Statesman Journal . May 15, 2009

The continuing slump in Oregon's economy will result in $3.8 billion less than experts say is needed to maintain state services and aid to public schools in the next two years, according to a forecast issued today.

The quarterly projection by State Economist Tom Potiowsky, which he made at a joint meeting of the Legislature's revenue committees, is important because it is the forecast on which the next two-year state budget will be based.

Lawmakers hope to end the 2009 session by June 30, one day before the new two-year budget cycle starts.

They have the most discretion over spending personal and corporate income taxes and lottery proceeds, all of which are down in today's forecast.
The gap between projected income and current services was estimated at $3.3 billion in the previous forecast issued Feb. 20.

Legislative budget analysts have said it would take $16.7 billion to continue programs at the current two-year level, which does not account for mid-cycle hiring of state police troopers and others, phase-in of programs and increased costs such as medical care. But lawmakers already cut more than $300 million from the current budget of $15.1 billion back in March. Other potential cuts were averted through use of federal economic-recovery funds and state funds other than reserves.

Legislative budget writers already were planning for a gap of about $4.4 billion.

The chief budget writers, both Democrats, are set to release the outlines of a spending plan on Monday. The plan will rely on using all $911 million remaining in federal economic-recovery funds and about half of $900 million in state reserves to make up some of the gap; spending cuts and higher taxes will make up the rest.

More than 90 percent of state government's discretionary spending goes to education, health and human services and public safety, including state police, courts and prisons. The biggest single chunk goes for aid to the 198 school districts, which get about 70 percent of their operating income from the state.

Earlier this week, minority Republicans released the outlines of their own two-year budget - based on the higher income projection in the Feb. 26 forecast - that assumes no new taxes and promises the same dollar amounts for state services and schools as in the current budget."Ultimately, core services and functions of government can be preserved without raising taxes," said Sen. Frank Morse, R-Albany.

But majority Democrats said the GOP proposal contains flawed assumptions about income projections, use of other-fund reserves and savings from spending cuts.

Human-services and education advocates also said the proposal under funds human services at a time of record demand for food stamps, unemployment benefits, cash assistance and medical care. State officials now estimate those added costs will exceed $250 million.

"To work our way out of this economic crisis, we must take a balanced approach that involves cutting spending, tapping our reserve funds, and asking big corporations and the wealthiest Oregonians to contribute their fair share," said House Majority Leader Mary Nolan, D-Portland.

The gap is less than had been feared by many legislators, but there's bad news, too. Lawmakers will still have find $350 million in cuts before the current two year budget period ends in June.


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Re: May Bargaining Update

The Ways & Means Committee Co-Chair Recommended budget is attached to the original post for your perusal.