Guest Opinion: Lane County Strike, A Year Later

October 18th, 2018 marks the one year anniversary of the Lane County strike. On that cold sunny morning a year ago, over 500 employees decided to walk off the job after the County proposed increased healthcare costs that would result in pay cuts. For the next week, we were bolstered by the support of this community and fellow union members like our local firefighters and graduate teachers, who were amongst the first to join the picket lines. 

AFSCME members knew that the people most likely to be impacted by a strike would be the clients and the community we care for every day, however we also knew that a stronger more qualified workforce would better serve the community for years to come. We knew that if we didn’t take a stand, the long term impacts would be far worse for those clients. 

Every day our members wanted to get back to serving the public but we knew we were fighting for something larger than just ourselves. Even though it took over a week for County Administrators to settle on a contract for Lane County employees, being on the picket line solidified the strength of AFSCME Local 2831 and showed that collective action can make positive change.

In the year since the strike many things have changed. A new contract was signed that included cost of living increases for Lane County employees, administration began performing contractually mandated market comparisons and increasing wages for underpaid positions, and the community health center physicians successfully unionized. Our strike has laid the foundation for a more fair and equitable county. 

In addition, with local elections coming up this November, more change is on the horizon and our members are at the forefront of it. We are running for elected office, canvassing for candidates, and doing the important work of voter outreach. We know that as engaged citizens and union members we have a responsibility to work hard to ensure we are electing those who support all working people.

We know we are a strong qualified workforce better able to care for our community. None of this would have been possible without our union brothers and sisters coming together and going on strike. AFSCME 2831 is a stronger and better union than it was a year ago. We support each other and stand in solidarity for a future that we all believe in. Thank you to all those who supported our strike and who want to live in a more equitable and just Lane County. There is more work to do but we are just getting started.