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Those Tenacious Union Organizers
A second try at organizing Legislative workers

Last fall, the Washington State based International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89 made an attempt to organize Oregon's Legislative branch workers. The Oregon Department of justice objected to the formation of a union on several grounds. In brief, those objections asserted that:
(1) recognizing the proposed bargaining unit would violate the separation of powers doctrine found in Article III, section 1 of the Oregon Constitution;
(2) the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA) does not provide for collective bargaining representation within the Legislative branch;
(3) the proposed bargaining unit was improperly defined; and
(4) the number of employees included in the proposed bargaining unit – and the number that signed valid union authorization cards – was questionable.

The Freedom Foundation has sent a letter to the Department of Justice, the Employment Relations Board and other impacted parties, reminding them that these objections are still valid, and need to be considered:

First, the Legislative Assembly raised crucial objections as to the legality of this petition under both the separation of powers doctrine of the Oregon Constitution and the state PECBA. Because the Legislative Assembly’s initial objections were dropped when RC-010-20 was withdrawn by IBEW, neither question has been answered – and it is crucial that they are. Notwithstanding any relevant objections presented to the ERB, the question of constitutionality should be pursued vigorously through the legal system and ultimately answered by the state courts.

Second, IBEW’s revisions to the proposed bargaining unit do not resolve the myriad of problems identified by your office with the appropriateness of that unit. For example, RC-001-21 now limits the bargaining unit description to various legislative assistants (LAs) and broadly excludes “supervisory, managerial, confidential and caucus employees.” However, such generalities were something the Legislative Assembly specifically objected to in Case No. RC-010-20 (namely, that a similar description was insufficiently broad due to legislators’ unique ability to designate their employees – including LAs – as any one of 90 potential classifications based on their individually assigned job duties, which can include “chief of staff” or other informal roles with supervisory, managerial, or confidential duties). Consequently, the Legislative Assembly’s associated concerns about the number of employees in the proposed unit – and the accuracy of those who may have signed union authorization cards pursuant to ORS 243.682(2) – have also not been addressed.

Unsaid in the letter is the suspicion that the re-filing clears the objections off the table and provides a clear path for the unionization of the Legislative workers. A decision from the Employment Relations Board is expected sometime in February.


--Staff Reports

Post Date: 2021-01-29 16:56:52Last Update: 2021-01-29 17:58:28



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