Introduction to General Council

During August 3-6, more than 300 SEIU 503 members from all over Oregon converged on Albany to hold our union’s 2016 General Council. We sent 11 elected delegates from Sub-Local 085 to represent UO workers. So what exactly were all these people up to? We’ll have a report in next month’s Local Focus about the actions that were taken at the gathering, but for now, here’s a brief description of what General Council is all about.

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Delegates Jimmy Murray and Liz Hahn talk about some of the struggles and wins made at 085.

WHAT IS GENERAL COUNCIL?

It’s the supreme governing body for SEIU Local 503. It meets regularly, every two years in August and sets the policies and direction for our union. It can also amend our union’s bylaws and governing documents.

WHO ATTENDS GENERAL COUNCIL?

Each sub-local in the union, including ours at the UO, elects delegates to represent it every two years. The number of delegates is set by SEIU Local 503’s bylaws.

HOW DOES IT OPERATE?

General Council operates very much like a legislature. Sub-locals, delegates, and the union’s Board of Directors propose resolutions that are extensively reviewed by various General Council committees and then voted on by all the delegates. Learn more at http://www.503gc2016.org/.

WHAT ARE THE RESOLUTIONS ABOUT?

A typical General Council considers 40-50 resolutions covering a wide range of issues. This year, delegates considered the approach SEIU Local 503 will take on raising the minimum wage to $15/hour, dealing with Oregon’s housing crisis, addressing climate change, and working together with other groups on common policy matters. They debated whether we should try to organize workers who can’t bargain a contract with their employer, but who want a voice in their workplace. Delegates discussed whether our union should look into establishing a non-profit organization that could pursue grant funding and work on issues not directly related to collective bargaining. They also reviewed proposals to change the way sub-locals like ours receive union funds and pay expenses, add positions to the statewide board of directors, update our union’s purpose statement, and even to redefine what our sub-locals are called and how they are designated.

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Delegate Zach Bennedict served on the Bylaws Committee

DOES ANYTHING ELSE HAPPEN AT GENERAL COUNCIL?

Lots! The main thing is the opportunity we all have to meet and work with members from other parts of our union. We are a diverse group, as the accompanying review of our membership shows. ere are always a variety of workshops offered on union-related topics and we get to hear from key political and union speakers, such as SEIU International President Mary Kay Henry. General Council also kicks off election season for our statewide officers and Board of Directors, so there are speeches and informal meetings where delegates get to question and learn about the candidates. That’s particularly important this year, since we will be electing a new SEIU Local 503 Executive Director this fall.

HOW IS SEIU LOCAL 503 BOARD OF DIRECTORS INVOLVED?

The 51 members of our Board of Directors are elected both on a geographic basis (e.g. Lane County area) and by sector (e.g. higher education). Theodora Ko Thompson is a director from our geographic area. is group meets about eight times a year and is responsible for carrying out the policies and direction established by General Council. Learn more at http://www.seiu503.org/.

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Acting Chief GC Delegate Kurt Willcox and Delegate Louie Vidmar discussing the events of the day.

SEIU LOCAL 503 SUB-LOCAL 085 DELEGATES TO ATTEND 2016 GENERAL COUNCIL

  • Lauradel Collins (Chief Delegate)
  • Kurt Willcox
  • Johnny Earl
  • Jimmy Murray
  • Dorothy Karstrom
  • Faith Wellman
  • Zachary Benedict
  • Jason Stone
  • John Taylor
  • Louie Vidmar
  • Liz Hahn
  • Theodora Ko Thompson (Local 503 Board of Directors)

SEIU LOCAL 503: WHO WE ARE

SEIU Local 503 started out as an association of Oregon state employees that included supervisors and managers. From there it evolved into a labor union for classified public employees (Oregon Public Employees Union—OPEU). Now we are a 70,000-person labor union, we belong to SEIU (Service Employees International Union), and we represent both public and private sector workers.

  • 30,000 State Homecare Workers
  • 22,100 State Workers (35 agencies)
  • 5,200 Higher Education (7 schools)
  • 3,400 Local Government (21 units)
  • 3,300 Nursing Home Workers
  • 3,000 Child Care Workers
  • 2,000 Adult Foster Home Workers
  • 900 Private Non-Profit (8 units)
  • 600 Private Homecare Workers
  • 70,500 Total

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SEIU Local 503 Sublocal 085: University of Oregon
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