The 80th legislative session kicks off today and provides us both opportunities and challenges. We have the chance to pass significant legislation to improve our working conditions. However, we also have to be vigilant and fight proposed changes to Oregon law that may hurt us or make our jobs more challenging. Elections matter and we were successful in helping to elect some great candidates that support the issues impacting our members and other working families in Oregon. It’s time now to engage those legislators and make sure they understand what we need to do our jobs and how these bills affect us. Elections are only half the battle. Now comes the part where we make them count.
Moving Us Forward
We have a number of bills we are working on to support AFSCME members. Many are specific to one group of workers, while a few impact many members. One of the bills that will have a wide impact is making sure members can communicate to others members at work, while protecting their information from outside groups.
We are also working in coalition with other unions to repeal the measure that took away "double coverage" health insurance from state and school employees whose spouses are also employed by the state and/or schools. While this change was done with the intent to save money, it turns out there are no real savings, not to mention the inherent unfairness of treating members differently based on where their spouse works.
AFSCME has worked with legislators to put forward bills to improve working standards for behavioral health workers, corrections staff, public service attorneys and several others. In addition, we are focused on not only increasing the state’s investment in education, but also in the agencies, local governments and nonprofits where our members serve Oregonians. In order to accomplish this, we need you. As session progresses, we will be asking for your help.
We are also watching out for bad bills. With over 1400 bills already filed, we are pouring over them to make sure that they do not adversely affect you on the job.
There are also a number of anti-PERS bills that have been filed. With your help, we believe that we can beat back most of these attacks. The bills don’t actually do much to affect the overall PERS debt and only roll back benefits for current and future workers, and are more punitive than anything else. As of right now, we are unsure if any of these attacks have legs, but we will watch them closely all session. Some of the attacks we have seen before, like changes to final average salary and taking away the 6%. But there are some bills that are more extreme, such as one that would move everyone into a 401(k). Stay informed about PERS or other benefit attacks by subscribing to our AFSCME email alert here.
As session progresses, the most impact you can have is by attending one of the AFSCME sponsored Lobby Days. There are several Lobby Days scheduled, but our largest one will be on April 25, the day before our AFSCME Convention. You can sign up here to participate.
During Lobby Days, you get to meet your legislators, and more importantly, put a name and a face to the issues that matters to you, your work, and your family. Your voice is the most important thing we can bring to bear this legislative session.
This session will be a fight to improve your working conditions and make sure there are no roll backs to your retirement and benefits. We will do everything we can to keep you informed, and together we should have a very successful session.