Northwest Oregon Labor Council

Weekly Update: Change the Rules.

National Labor Relations Board Proposes New Rules for Elections

The National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), which oversees unionization efforts and other workplace issues, has taken the first step toward updating many of their rules, which look just like they did decades ago despite upgrades in technology, communication, and increasingly new workplace issues.  

The proposed rule changes would bring union elections into the 21st century:  organizers will be able to file necessary forms electronically and can choose to provide email addresses rather than the home addresses of voters.  The NLRB is trying to make the entire process more streamlined and efficient as well by eliminating a duplicative pre-election review process and shortening the time required for counting votes.  The chair of the NLRB, Wilma Liebman, indicated that the change "will result in rules that are simpler, that are clearer, and that come closer to achieving the aim of the National Labor Relations Act: making sure that employees are free to choose whether or not they want to be represented at work, in a quick, fair, and accurate way."

The change in election procedure is welcome.  National AFL-CIO president Trumka expressed his concerns over the current election system:  “When workers want to vote on a union, they should get a fair chance to vote.  That’s a basic right.  But our current system has become a broken, bureaucratic maze that stalls and stymies workers’ choices.  And that diminishes the voice of working people, creates imbalance in our economy and shrinks the middle class. “

The proposal is receiving mixed reactions from politicians.  The US Chamber of Commerce has already opposed it and groups against expanding workers’ rights claim the rules make it too easy for a workplace to unionize.  Senator Jeff Merkley put things in perspective and heralded the proposal as a way to protect the middle class: “This proposed rule change is about fairness – giving workers updated organizing tools they can use to negotiate good wages and good benefits. This is particularly important in an economy where the real median income in America is lower now than it was ten years ago, and more and more Americans are struggling to make ends meet.”
As for us here in Oregon: we’re just happy to see some basic changes made to a system that hasn’t been updates in so many years.

In Other News...

Education Reform Bills

As many of you probably read in the papers this morning, a large package of education reform bills passed yesterday.  

Although legislators were told that each bill would be considered individually, the entire process stalled after the first bill failed on the floor on Monday.  

On Tuesday legislators came back into the building ready to pass sweeping changes which include: allowing students to transfer between school districts more easily, allowing more well-off districts to recruit students away from already struggling districts; allowing increased enrollment in for-profit, online, virtual schools without enacting needed increases in oversight; and allowing schools to opt-out of ESDs, the larger bodies that provide expensive services for all schools in area to cut down on costs and centralize specific programs.

Also included in the package was the Governor’s new program to coordinate all education and services for kids from 0-20 through one body, a major tenant of his campaign; and a program to create pilot Career Technical Education programs, a big win that was supported by both education and trade unions as a way to keep kids in school and interested in learning, and prepare kids who aren’t interested in college for good, high wage, careers.

Union Summer Internships

Across the country, interns have begun training to spend the summer learning about the labor movement by participating in organizing drives, political action and building community partnerships.

Oregon’s union movement has five interns working with CWA, OSEA and AFSCME.  Dan Torres, the site coordinator for Oregon’s program says that the Union Summer program will “excite new, young activists in the union movement and instill them with the vital skills necessary to empower workers in the labor movement.”

Be ready to meet Oregon’s newest labor activists at events throughout the summer!

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