Secretaries Blog

2015 May Annual DMV union mtg

At every union meeting, I find our own real life DMV stories to be the most interesting part. I met Hannah, from the Corvallis office with 5 staff. “Oregon State students are our primary customers and that means lots of foreign language testing with lots of translators. At our office we made appointments for translators 2 days per week and we were booked out 3 months in advance. Now that Arabic and Chinese tests are available we have stopped the appointments and just take a few translators per day as they come in, like other offices do.” Like all offices, when DMV staff don’t understand the language they are speaking during an oral test, we wonder if they are cheating. Hannah said they once asked a Portland area DMV Chinese speaker to come down “to listen in” to a frequent translator, as a test was being given. Within 10 minutes the testing was stopped- for cheating.


Meeting attendance 14. From Cave junction (president Gail), Bend, The Dalles, Salem ,Corvallis, Klamath Falls, 2 from Portland, 2 from Medford, 2 from HQ, our 503 organizer Melissa and guest Mike Scott who is ODOT local president and Vice President for 503.
Mike spoke first with an overview of what was happening in bargaining. Union is asking for 2 additional salary steps to be added on the top so we would have 11 total. This would enable raises for people who have “topped out” at step 9. Couple this with the $15 wage minimum the union is pushing for and some of the lowest paid people would find themselves bumped a step or 2 also. “Right now, 150 people at the DMV earn less than $15/hour. They are part of a group of low paid state workers who earn so little they get a special $40/month added bonus towards health insurance costs.”
Mike reported that the PEBB reserve is a healthy $120 million. “The what is how much”, I asked? Mike explained that this just means that the benefits board has money on hand to cover all expected current and future expenses and an “extra” $120 million as back up. Like politicians everywhere, there are calls from legislators for this to be taken from the employee fund and spent on general state budget items. Even the union is calling for this money to be spent but only to benefit union members. The union seems to be saying- “This “extra” money comes from the pockets of state employees and we should give it back to state employees as part of the wage raise we are asking for.”
Confession time from John Hungerford, your secretary: Much of Mikes talk was in a language I do not understand even after 4 years of deep union involvement. I frequently have this problem with politicians and union people and have to ask lots of questions to understand. For example, he later said “State senator so-and-so gave $10 million to state employees… but the Republicans took it away.” After I asked for explanation, I understood this to mean the senator proposed a budget that included an additional $10 million for state employee wages but the larger legislative body voted against this.
PERS is always a hot topic and is in the news for the recent court decision. The legislature changed some of the rules on how PERS would be paid out, various people sued and it appears that the Oregon Supreme Court told the legislature to take it all back and start over; they were wrong to change the rules.
The 6% PERS issue: Jon Woodley, our chief steward, remembers how it all started. “Instead of getting a 3% raise each year in the mid 1980’s, the state offered to put aside 6% as pre-tax money into a retirement account for each of us. This saved employees on income tax and saved money for the state too.” Jon and others view this as part of our wages, money that is owed to us. Public perception of this is different however. Most newspaper accounts call this an extra benefit, not part of our base wages at all. Many people are pushing for state employees to “pick up the 6%”. To pay for it ourselves by having it deducted from our wages after tax’s. This would mean a very real pay cut for us all. A clear and understandable video on this topic can be seen here.

Video Player


What has the union done for ME? Asked Mike Scott. At ODOT [where Mike works], they ran a test on 30 miles of highway. These 30 miles were built and maintained by a private firm with non union wages. “ODOT loaned them snow plows, gave them lots of materials, etc. After a few years, the union put together the numbers and showed that it was almost 2X more expensive to go with this private firm then to keep it in house with state employees.”
As state employees, all our information is public. Even down to where we live. A legislative bill sponsored by 503 would keep much of our personal information private.
SEIU 503 has 55,000 members but only 131 paid organizers. The staff is spread very thin and is often overworked. “They work hard for our benefit”.
Dues- “The 1st 3 hours of work each month goes to union dues. When we look at it that way, it looks pretty cheap for the benefits we get. Paid Jury duty, Overtime by the day instead of by the week, paid personal business days, paid sick leave, bereavement leave, paid vacations and more.”
SEIU 502 is pushing “Fair Shot” . Many of our members don’t support this. SEIU is heavily involved in politics. Many of our members don’t support this. Keep focused on the local issues. Don’t throw out the baby with the dirty bathwater.
The US Postal Service is an “open shop”. You don’t have to be a union member to work there and are not required to pay dues. But 95% voluntarily pay dues as union members. Why? “Because the management is bad and the union has our back”, say the workers.
Observation- Mike Scott is like a bulldozer. If he agrees with an idea he will plow away any objection and push it through. If he disagrees, it’s the same run-everyone-over bulldozer.
Ric- “I want to explore the idea of merging the ODOT sub local and the DMV sub local” There would be definite advantages in size but disadvantages in that officers might know nothing about members work life.
Treasurers Report-
Insert John report
Mellissa (our 503 organizer) added: In the last 2 years we have gone from 105 fair share payers at DMV to 205. Its mostly new employees. In the last year 70 new people were hired who are not now members. At the end of counter ops class there is a time set aside for union information to be presented but no applications from those classes ever seem to come to union HQ. A few people told that they had filled out membership forms but the union did not have them. We will monitor the situation closely. The group agreed that a firm goal should be to give each new employee an opportunity to become a voting member and to reach out at least once a year to all existing fair share members.
Proposed Constitution changes–
1) Our constitution allows 1 statewide chief steward. This person can go anywhere in the state and do steward work. Because we have many locations without stewards, this is important. This person also has certain privileges per our contract. Instead of just 1, the motion is to have 2. One from the field, one from HQ. Discussion– Jon Woodley (our current chief steward) “Work issues at HQ are very different than anything I have experienced in my years in the field. I have a very hard time understanding and helping members that work in HQ. We need a person familiar with that area.” Vote– 14 yes.
2) How do we change the constitution? There seem to be slightly different rules in the constitution itself and the bylaws. They should agree? Who can call for a vote? Vote– change it– 1; Do not change it– 12; abstain 1
3) When can we hold our annual meeting? Now- “As close as possible to May 1st” Proposed- “Between April 1st and May 31st”. Discussion– This allows us a much broader set of dates to work with. This year, the 1st weekend of May conflicts with May Day– International Workers Day and the 2nd weekend is Mothers Day. Would be easier to have more options. Vote– Yes– 13; No-1.

A quick executive commitee meeting was held during a pause in the regular meeting. “We have just voted to add a second chief steward. Who should it be?” Jon Woodley will remain as chief steward for field workers. Linda Malm will become the chief steward for HQ staff. The chief stewards do not overlap but can fill in for each other as needed. Regional stewards were appointed: East region- Donna Garrison; NW region– Mary Jane was suggested and will be asked. HQ “processing region” is still vacant.
Ric Glimpse pointed out that adding a 5th to the executive committee will conflict slightly with verbiage that says “3 out of the 4” executive committee members… Ooops. There were a few other minor changes put forth. Any changes to the constitution or by-laws must have notice to all members and a waiting period and be done carefully. Everyone agreed with Secretary John that the issues were very small and would not affect our operations. The best thing is to put them on next years agenda and fix them then.
Open Forum-
Q– We put things in for bargaining and have not heard back. What is happening with our proposals? The particular issue was on getting better counters in 1 office. A– This is not a contract issue but I do know that ALL offices will be getting the up and down adjustable tables soon.
Q- What’s happening in bargaining?
The Central Table– Statewide issues like steps, health Insurance, PERS, COLA’s
The Coalition Table– ODOT & DMV issues
Proposals Mike remembered—- *Paid snow days were proposed. *Move Governors day to ONLY the day after thanksgiving (would close all offices). *Anyone working at the Coffee Creek prison with DMV would get a 10% bonus, not just 1 person as now. *Transfer from one office to vacant position elsewhere should be made easier and the process should be clear. [John H told of talking to his regional manager about this. Instant response was “Oh no. That would be way too much work for me. I won’t even consider it”.]

2012 mtg

DMV local 735 Statewide Annual Conference
 Salem OR May 5 2012
Notes taken by John Hungerford TSR SE Portland field office.

 55,000 current members in SEIU 503 Oregon. A jump of over 10,000 since last year with the addition of the home health care workers to our union. These are the people who care for folks too sick or injured to be alone but not bad enough to need a nursing home. The home health care workers typically come by for 4 hours each day or every other day and do shopping, give a bath, fix meals. A hard working group of folks.
19,000 members in our contract group. That’s ODOT, DMV, forestry,  the university system.  900 members in the DMV sub local 735. 12 members attended this annual meeting. 72 ballots sent in during last months election.

Issues for the 2013 contract.
$Money$    Cola    Furlough    decreased staffing / decreased overtime
PERS    Healthcare in contract    HEM    Restore Steps
  One of the key concepts I heard was that the most important negotiations often take place months before the SEIU bargaining team gets started. “If the governor and the legislator have a budget in place that includes furlough days and a fixed amount for salaries for state employees at various agencies, there is not going to be any salary negotiations.” We are stuck before we even start. We must work with the governor to set up a good budget before he even proposes it to the legislature.
John H- “One thing we need for the next contract is better communication between the union leadership and the members.” Quick and loud response from various people at the meeting– “There is plenty of information being given out, the members just don’t read it! The members need to seek it out. They should call and ask.” All through the meeting when I brought up that the membership does not feel a part of the union because we don’t know what is going on I got the same response- We [the leaders] are doing a great job of getting the information out. The members just don’t read it.

Linda Burgin, our statewide 503 president. About 7 years ago the union put together a 5 year “strategic plan”. It is time for our next 5 year plan. It was written by a group that included all the elected union offices from sub locals and local 503 plus about 1/3rd of our staff. We looked for people with vision.   Comments to her are welcome–
“Our union leaders often get way out in front of the membership. At times we need to reach back and bring the membership forward with us.” Linda went through the strategic plan with us. In one area where the unions stated plan is to “promote efficiency and expose waste…” in state government I asked her if that meant we as a union would push for our jobs to be modernized. Most of us know we could eliminate huge amounts of hand work if we would just use computers to do the sorting, figuring and tracking. This would also reduce the head count at DMV. “I would never push for any change that costs the job of members.”she responded.
Another part of the strategic plan calls for us to “pass the strongest contractor legislation in the US…” She explained that this would require work to be done by state employees at higher wages rather than allow state work to be hired out to private firms. Think of the Washington DMV. Most of its public functions are done privately. You can get your car smog checked and tagged at many local car repair garages and can renew your drivers license at private businesses which are contracted to the state.

“Why don’t we members get asked what we want?”
Linda- “You do get asked. Its your elected representatives who make these decisions.”

I talked privately about this later with another member. I said- “Its like voting in public elections. Only the rich and powerful were allowed to vote in the past and lots of barriers were set up to stop “the people” from finding out what was going on. Laws were passed making it easy to register [like we do at the DMV field offices for people moving into the state] and easy to vote. Why? Because in a democracy we want input from as many people as we possibly can get. In our union, on the other hand, it is difficult to get information and to have input. If you know what is gong on, its easy to get information. But if you are not “in the know” about where to look and how to search and who to call… its not easy”.   My system for checking if it works. Ask 100 random members to gather up certain union information. If 90 or more can do it easily we are doing great! If more than 20 have trouble finding the information or understanding it, we need to change our information system. Stop blaming the members for not knowing what is going on.

More from Linda Burgin- “As long as we are the only ones with good wages & benefits we will be targets [to be cut down]. Our long term goal is to raise the wages and benefits of everyone else in the state to where we are, not just to keep our own wages up.”

Barbara Casey, treasurer of state SEIU 503
Your union dues are figured at 1.7% of your salary.
An additional $2.75 per member per month is collected for “union issues”- a separate fund for political issues.
75 cents per member per month goes to our political action group called CAPE. Because there are so many of us that’s over $30,000 per month. Plus, those people who want to can voluntarily contribute to CAPE and then they get to be a part of choosing how to spend that money. We are raising over $79,000 every month with this fund. That’s just under $950,000 per year which goes to local (in Oregon) political races and candidates.
6% for member benefits like strike fund
8% goes to politics and communication
She declared  that we all must “vote for union friendly legislators.” The state 503 board of directors “endorses” candidates. Then CAPE members choose what money to send to them.
“We do not look at or care what political party a candidate is with. We care only if they are good on workers rights. We ask for a 10 page survey to be returned. Most Republicans do not return the survey.”

Union staff- We have 150 full time staff at the Oregon SEIU.  Organizers receive $40,000 to $70,000.  Our elected union president Gwen receives the same as she did working for the state + $400 each month.  Support staff in the 5 offices the union maintains receive $20,000 to $30,000.
Barbara Casey gave me a copy of the budget for 2011. Very difficult to understand but I will work my way through it in the next month. She has offered to help me.
Brian Rudiger spoke [manager of field operations]. My assessment: Intelligent, knowledgeable, clear speaking. Sees the large picture but only from the union standpoint”
John H asked- “What is the relationship between 503 and sub local 735 (DMV)? Since 503 controls the money and seems to control almost everything else, why do we have a sub local?”
“The sub local is made of people just like you. The same jobs. We can support each other better because we know DMV working conditions and what you are dealing with. The members are more likely to get help and support because we are understood by our local leaders.”

FEMLA discussion occurred. Lots of misunderstanding on what it is, how it is to be used and when it applies. How is it different than sick leave?     Will be covered in a future newsletter.
Debra, our VP, is in charge of the newsletter. Anyone want to write it?  John H volunteered.. Debra–
  When we call in sick we just “call in sick”. Don’t explain, don’t have to “call back in 2 hours” like some managers require. Don’t have to list symptoms. Just say, “I am calling in sick today.”

Before the union meeting, I posted a note on our break room wall telling people I would be going and would ask any questions they had. I received the following questions.
– How come we don’t march in protest when we have a forced furlough day, the legislator is still meeting [and all their staff are getting paid.]?
– Why doesn’t management just do the right thing during negotiations?
– Why does the union almost always cave in?
– Could we employee some professional bargainers? The management does and I hav heard tht other unions do this. Our contracts have been so poor recently. We should at least consult with other unions to see how they negotiate.
– How are our union dues spent?  Negotiators are volunteers, stewards are volunteers. What is the money spent on. A detailed accounting please.
– Could we press for a classification study? Our workload has increased but no increase in salary.
– How did the union allow us to work Saturdays for years? How did they let re-exams be incorporated into TSR1 duties, etc?

A topic of conversation at the meeting was the question of …
Why is the union movement not as strong as 50 years ago? Union leaders today seem to lament that the members don’t care enough to keep informed. Don’t care enough to come out for rallies. Don’t care enough to consider a strike.
 Brian Rudiger started by saying “In 1950 the need was obvious. Unsafe conditions, low wages, no security.  Today: Safe working conditions, good wages, strong security. Why get so excited? People feel like its no big deal. The group and Brian immediately altered the conversation to “we must defend what we have, we must fight for better wages, etc.
 [In my view, they ignored the reality that people who feel safe and secure don’t feel the need to organize or fight. The need has changed. Today the key is education and communication, both of which our union does poorly.]
Linda B stated “Our goal is to bring up the standards for ALL people. That has always been the union message. It’s not just our own members we fight for, its for everybody.” Linda also expressed frustration that members don’t get it, don’t see the underlying issues.

Job Issues discussed:
– Direct contacts to upper managers over our own managers heads was just fine with Stephanie Mills. She always encouraged direct communication to her. Didn’t have to go through our managers.
– We can see our personnel files any time we want. Making copies is OK.
    John Hungerford SE Portland field office.  E-mail

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