I have been an active member of SEIU 503/OPEU for three decades and there have been special times that I have been extremely proud of my union. The first time was in October 1987 when we became a real union and state workers went on strike for the first time. One of the major issues of that strike was for “Pay Equity” increases. This was for entire job classifications where women were being paid poverty wages. After an historic nine-day rolling strike we won 10% pay equity increases for 5600 workers. I was proud again in 2013 when SEIU supported striking fast food workers in New York City with a demand for a $15 minimum wage. They have continued to support this growing national movement that shines a light on the day to day struggles of all low wage workers with a demand that inspires strikes, rallies and demonstrations across the country.
In August of last year hundreds of elected delegates to the SEIU 503 General Council voted to support Oregon’s movement fighting for a $15 minimum wage. One section of that resolution stated, “SEIU 503 will support an initiative with unions and community partners to use the Oregon ballot measure system to achieve a $15 minimum wage.” On May 16, 2015, that decision was reaffirmed at our Board of Directors meeting.
In 1987 we were a union of 20,000 state workers who went on strike for Pay Equity increases. Today we are 55,000 workers and also include home care workers, nursing home workers, local government workers, state university workers, and nonprofit workers. This year state workers, home care workers and university workers are all demanding a $15 floor in contract negotiations. Solidarity between union workers and non-union workers in communities across the state can result in a winning ballot measure campaign. But need everyone to join us!