Union Workers, Leaders React to Measure 97 Defeat

Brian Rudiger, executive director-elect, SEIU 503
Rob Sisk, president, SEIU 503

We may not have won this campaign, but we did change the debate. Almost every Oregonian now knows that we have the lowest corporate taxes in the nation and tremendous needs to fund health care, stabilize the budget and build a better education system.

We also built the strongest, most diverse coalition Oregon has ever seen. The A Better Oregon coalition is something we only dreamed about when we started this work two years ago. The coalition is going to stick together and take this fight to Salem.

During the past 20 months 1,300 endorsers and more than 10,000 volunteers had 225,000 conversations with Oregon voters. Our massive field operation means we talked to more voters than any campaign in Oregon history. What we heard at doors and on the phones was that Oregonians want to raise graduation rates, reduce classroom sizes, make healthcare more affordable and give seniors the resources they need to live in dignity. That our corporate tax rates rank 50th nationally is unacceptable to them.

This fight is far from over. In fact, it’s just beginning.

Johnny Earl, chief bargaining delegate and vice president

Our upcoming negotiations with the universities regarding the financial portion of our contract is shaping up to be a significant challenge. With the defeat of Measure 97, which proposed a tax on big corporations doing business in Oregon, the state certainly isn’t doling out extra money—it doesn’t have it.

We are in a fight just to keep what we have. Here we go again. If Measure 97 passed, there was a chance that the universities’ proposals during upcoming bargaining sessions were to be somewhat reasonable from workers’ perspectives. Now, all state agencies are expected to take a 10% cut in their budgets. I’m sure that doesn’t help the universities fund our wages. The cost of living continues to rise, and we shouldn’t have to go broke while working here.

Kurt Willcox, former SEIU 503–085 officer and non-faculty staff member, UO Board of Trustees

The defeat of Ballot Measure 97 means that the University of Oregon and UO employees will face an extremely difficult financial situation next year. The upcoming state budget is already projected to be $1 billion short of maintaining current services. Funding for the PERS system will significantly add to the university’s costs, as well as those of most public employers. There will be great pressure on the state legislature to nd revenue to improve our K-12 public schools—even if that means taking it from other programs.

Higher education will once again be on the chopping block in Salem. We will have to work hard to simply maintain our current inadequate level of funding. Even if we succeed there, UO President Schill already signaled that he will be forced to propose a sizable—probably double-digit—tuition increase for our students.

Our upcoming SEIU contract negotiations over economic issues promises to be brutal. I expect we will be confronted with takeaway proposals that will seriously impact our health care and standard of living. In addition, many of our members will likely have to deal with layoffs. Our commitment to each other and our willingness to fight for a fair contract will definitely be tested next year.

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SEIU Local 085