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The last few months there has been an outstanding amount of labor activity from workers going on strike, winning new contracts, to seeking to form new unions. It is hard to keep up, even for a seasoned unionist. It has been invigorating, but there have also been losses.
In mid-December, City of Eugene workers a part of AFSCME Local 1724 won a new contract. It includes a 6% cost of living adjustment (COLA) wage increases for the first year of the contract which starts retroactively on July 1, 2021. Additionally, 60% of workers received pay grade increases.
At the beginning of the new year thousands of classified workers at Oregon’s universities began their new contract. The workers, represented by SEIU 503, gained a five-year contract. This was longer than what they were originally seeking, but were able to receive other concessions. Additionally, there is a contract reopener in 2023 where they can renegotiate wages among other things The new minimum wage for all SEIU workers across all campuses is $15/hr.
On January 6, workers at the Starbucks on 29th & Willamette in Eugene filed for a union election, becoming the first store in Oregon to do so. Workers were inspired the employees of the Buffalo, NY shop who organized to become the first ever Starbucks union in December. The workers movement, under the name Starbucks Workers United has been sweeping the country and has picked up a stronghold in Eugene, with workers at six shops in Eugene that have filed for a union election.
In addition to baristas, cannabis shop workers are working towards a union in town. Workers at Spacebuds The Dispensary and Flowr of Life filed for union elections in January.
Later in January, workers at McKenzie-Willamette Medical Center that are a part of SEIU 49 secured a new contract. Union members won average wage increases of 22% over the three-year lifespan of the contract after going on strike twice, two days in October and five days in December. The union however was not able to stem the outsourcing of 70 workers to a Texas based company, the main impetus of their first strike.
On midnight, February 18, local 4-J educators landed a tentative agreement with the school district. The Eugene Education Association (EEA) bargaining team secured a 4% COLA for each year of the three-year contract. EEA President Sabrina Gordon acknowledges that these rates are lower than the current 7% inflation rate the country is experiencing, but says that these are much better than other salary increases for the union over the last decade.
Lastly, workers at Planned Parenthood of Southwestern Oregon organized under SEIU 49 and ratified their first contract in February. Under the contract workers will receive an average 15% raise and a wage floor at $18/hr.