How workers and unions behaved in the 2021 session of the Oregon legislature



By Don McIntosh

This year, as always, unions in Oregon have called on lawmakers to improve the lives of workers in ways big and small. During the 2021 session which ended on June 26, progress was to be reported, in particular for the building trades. Some highlights:


  • Health care for full-time part-time teachers AFT-Oregon has never given up. For 12 years, the union traveled to Salem to call on lawmakers to offer faculty full-time health benefits if their combined hours at several community colleges and public universities add up to full-time. This year is finally over. The PERS pension system already collects data on hours worked. Now, he’ll share his list with the Oregon Employee Benefits Board, and the Oregon Campus Juggling Faculty will get health insurance benefits.
  • Budget cut for BOLI Oregon Labor Secretary Val Hoyle has requested 25 additional positions. The legislature gave it 20. This brings the office to 127.5 employees to enforce laws on wages and hours, current wages and civil rights and oversee apprenticeship programs. It’s still not enough, but Hoyle says it’s the biggest staff increase in 50 years.
  • Sick leave for the hiring of room workers When the Oregon Paid Sick Leave Act was passed in 2015, unionized construction workers were exempted due to the complexity of granting paid time off through union trusts to workers who have several employers. Now, under SB 588, employers with multi-employer collective agreements are considered to have met Oregon’s sick leave requirements if they have a substantially equivalent sick leave or paid leave policy. .
  • Safe personnel for nursing homes SB 714 establishes minimum staffing ratios for nursing homes, based on patient needs.
  • The salary in force is the union salary Under Oregon’s “Little Davis-Bacon” law, workers in public construction projects must receive current wages and benefits. So far, Oregon has determined the going wage through a complicated and lengthy annual employer survey that is sometimes wrong. Now, thanks to SB 493, the state will set the prevailing salary in the same way Washington does: for each craft specialty, it is simply the salary negotiated by the union for that region.
  • Right to negotiate on class size (sometimes) Teachers and parents both want smaller classes. The right to bargain over class size has long been a goal of teachers’ unions. Until now, Oregon law has said school districts don’t have to negotiate this. SB 580, a bill to make it a compulsory subject for negotiation was passed by the Senate, but it was amended at the request of the Speaker of the House, Tina Kotek: now they must negotiate the size of the classes only in schools with large numbers of low-income students.
  • Non-competition SB 169 tightens restrictions on non-compete agreements: they are void and unenforceable for workers earning less than $ 100,533, and the restrictions cannot last more than 12 months after an employee leaves.
  • Yes, collective agreements are legal SB 420 is clear: local governments and agencies are allowed to use community benefit agreements, setting standards for the use of union labor and employing women and minority workers and apprentices .
  • A carbon-free electricity network … by 2040 One of the country’s most ambitious greenhouse gas emission plans, HB 2021 requires electric utilities to reduce greenhouse gas emissions associated with the electricity they sell. consumers in Oregon, 80% below benchmarks by 2030, 90% by 2035, and 100% by 2040. Bill prohibits expansion or new construction of power plants that burn natural gas, but its demands will also spur a huge expansion of renewables, and for the first time, it ensures that the workers who build these renewables will be well paid. Any new energy project of 10 megawatts or more will have to pay construction workers the current salary and benefits. The bill was supported by PGE and Pacific Power, but no Republican voted in favor. No union supported the bill, but neither opposed it, and several union officials testified in favor of the inclusion of strict labor standards. Because of its labor standards, the law is likely to increase the chances of local unionized workers getting the job done. Indeed, it sets, among other things, standards for the use of state-certified apprentices. It also sets goals for the hiring and recruitment of veterans, women and people of color.


  • Overtime for farm workers HB 2358 reportedly required employers to pay farm workers overtime for hours worked over 40 in a work week. He died in the House without ever going upstairs.
  • Right to strike for public transport workers SB 690, sponsored by lawmakers Chris Gorsek and Lew Frederick, reportedly restored the right to strike for transit workers. But he never even had a committee hearing.
  • Let workers sue when employers break labor laws HB 2205, dubbed the Just Enforcement Act, is said to have given aggrieved workers the right to sue, when currently they have to rely on the understaffed Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries to pursue cases labor law violations. But Alaska Airlines and a lot of the business groups said it was bad, and it was never done off committee.
  • Bonus check for essential workers SEIU Locals 503 and 49, AFSCME and UFCW 555 lined up behind a proposal to use one-time federal funds to issue checks from $ 1,000 to $ 2,000 to skilled essential workers who masked themselves , did their job and allowed Oregon to work during a pandemic. Lawmakers refused.


  • $ 17 minimum wage At least a few lawmakers were ready to think big. HB 3351, sponsored by Wlnsvey Campos, Maxine Dexter, Dacia Grayber, Khan Pham and Deb Patterson, reportedly raised the statewide minimum wage to $ 17 on July 1, 2022 – getting rid of the 3 separate wage zones that are owed from leave $ 2.25 for workers in eastern Oregon behind those in the Portland area. He didn’t have a hearing.



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