Victories in Oregon as two unions join the AFT

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OSEA KlamathOSEA board of directors member Eva Marie Chasteen poses with Classified Personnel of Klamath Falls president Dan Neubauer, left, and vice president Mark McGahan following the affiliation vote.

The Oregon School Employees Association has added two new chapters this month. On May 18, the Classified Personnel of Klamath Falls voted for affiliation with OSEA, and on May 21, the state Employment Relations Board notified OSEA that it will become the certified representative for Mt. Hood Head Start workers. These two victories bring 310 potential new members into our union.

In Klamath Falls, located in southern Oregon, the union represents custodians, mechanics, electricians and carpenters, as well as maintenance, warehouse and delivery workers in a K-12 school district. They affiliated with OSEA and the AFT because the wide array of resources now available to them can better serve their members.

The two campaigns were very different. Klamath Falls was a quick affiliation by an existing organization, while Mt. Hood was a comprehensive organizing campaign of new members.

Klamath Falls, an independent association since 1993, came upon the opportunity to affiliate with OSEA by chance. In March, the association's president, Dan Neubauer, was visiting the state capital on personal business when he met two OSEA leaders in a hotel elevator. Their conversation led to an informational meeting with OSEA staff and CPOKF members in April, followed by a decisive affiliation vote this month.

OSEA Mount HoodFrom left, Oregon AFL-CIO organizer Chris Hewitt, AFT organizer Lesly Salinas and AFL-CIO organizer Claudia Magaña after filing a petition to organize the Mt. Hood Community College Head Start workers.

In Mt. Hood, courageous and committed child care workers at 16 Head Start centers run by Mt. Hood Community College undertook a card-check campaign. Two of the work sites are on campus; the rest are spread throughout the community in East Portland. In Oregon, no election is necessary if more than 50 percent of employees in a proposed public sector bargaining unit sign a union authorization card.

Greater job security, training, equitable healthcare and a voice in day-to-day operations were some of the issues that powered the Head Start workers to victory. A strong majority backed the union in the first "unity" campaign ever run by OSEA together with the Oregon AFL-CIO. The campaign spanned 18 months and showcased the new AFL-CIO model, using all the resources of Oregon's central labor body, including a team effort spanning several unions at every level.

One piece of literature made a big difference in the Head Start campaign. It featured dozens of photos of Head Start workers along with the slogan, "Join us in building a union." The astounding diversity of the Head Start employees required fliers and outreach in many languages, including English, Spanish and Russian. [OSEA staff, Annette Licitra, Dennis Ziemer/OSEA photos]

May 23, 2013