Sunday, June 18, 2017

Oregon Labor's Political Agenda: winning the good, fighting the bad, questioning the neglected.

The following is a somewhat edited and pessimistic take on things. We cribbed it from a very helpful article in Northwest Labor Press and added a few points of our own. Bill Post remains hopelessly reactionary and Brian Clem moves further backwards, as we have noted here previously.

Five good ideas from Labor that need to make it through Oregons legislature in the time remaining…

1. Bargain over class size: Parents and students hate large classes. So do teachers. HB 2651, sponsored by Tigard State Representative Margaret Doherty, would make school class size a mandatory subject of collective bargaining.
2. Rent control: The most effective response to an affordable housing emergency HB 2001, sponsored by House Speaker Tina Kotek, would repeal the statewide ban on local rent control ordinances AND cap rent increases statewide at 5 percent through July 1, 2018.
3. Put lawless contractors on notice: Tired of seeing businesses that break the law continue to get public contracts? HB 2670, sponsored by Portland State Rep. Rob Nosse, bidders on public contracts of over $100,000 to disclose whether in the last three years they’ve been found to have violated labor laws like the National Labor Relations Act and laws on minimum wage, overtime, and the prevailing wage.
4. Pay prevailing wage on construction projects funded with tax breaks: Why are Oregon building trades workers paid the area prevailing wage when the state spends money on construction, but not when the state funds construction via tax subsidies? HB 2194 and SB 291would expand the prevailing rate requirement to include public works funded via tax credits or tax abatements.
5. Require non-profit hospitals to do something to deserve their tax-exempt status:  Hospital bills are a key reason health care is so expensive, yet most of the Oregon hospitals charging sky-high prices are “non-profit” institutions that pay no taxes, and the law is very vague about the charitable and educational service they must provide. HB 2115, sponsored by State Rep. Mitch Greenlick, would lay out stricter requirements for nonprofit hospitals health systems to be exempt from taxation.

Three bad ideas which need to be stopped right now...

1. Privatize liquor sales:  When the State of Washington privatized liquor sales, hundreds of union members lost their jobs, and liquor prices soared. Now a bill from Salem State Rep. Brian Clem would pave the way to privatization in Oregon. HB 2032 would set up a task force to develop proposals for privatizing the sale of distilled liquors and phasing out the role of the Oregon Liquor Control Commission.
2. Keep young workers poor: HB 2378, sponsored by Keizer State Rep. Bill Post, would allow employers to pay 85 percent of minimum wage to employees under 21 years of age for the first 90 days of employment.
3. Public subsidy for private payroll: HB 2375, sponsored by Grants Pass State Rep. Carl Wilson, would give employers an income tax credit — if they pay employees wages greater than the minimum wage.

Seven ideas which should have been on the forefront of labor's political agenda from the beginning...

1. Establishing paid family medical leave for all Oregon workers
2. Ending “no cause” evictions and the ban on rent control (see below)
3. Ending racial profiling by police
4. Ensuring health coverage for all Oregon kids
5. Extending reproductive health services to all Oregon residents, not just citizens
6. Taping grand jury hearings
7. Public entities should not be sharing details of a person's citizenship status with anyone unless clearly required to do so by federal law

The Fair Shot For All alliance has been working on most these, but a stronger push from all of Labor was needed.

Portland Tenants United has this to say about HB 2004:

What happens when the same democrats who amended tenant protection bill HB 2004 take money from the PAC created to kill the bill?


If this bill passes as-is then TENANTS SHOULD NOT SIGN LEASES! And if the landlord will only offer month-to-month for hundreds more a month? Well, the amendments took out the ability for us to do anything about that too.

Sign our petition to demand the Oregon Senate #Restore2004 and come to our rally at the state Capitol on Tuesday!


The soul and the future of labor: leaders of the Portland Voz Workers' Education Project get some well-deserved respect and recognition at the Voz dinner last week.

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