SEIU Had Exactly One Job To Do – And Botched It

SEIU Had Exactly One Job To Do – And Botched It

SEIU Had Exactly One Job To Do – And Botched It

Freedom Foundation staffers have spent a great deal of time on the phone this month listening to horror stories from homecare workers whose union’s ineptitude is surpassed only by its sheer, unvarnished gall.

In a nut shell, Oregon homecare workers weren’t paid during the entire month of January. One brief post on SEIU 503’s website notified workers that a new, improved payroll system was implemented for 2016 and that, accordingly, paychecks would arrive two weeks later than normal.

Sorry for the inconvenience. Moving on.

Predictably, SEIU blames “new overtime” regulations for this sweeping change, which it explained in a benign, overly simplistic post buried on its website. It took the Freedom Foundation six weeks, multiple phone calls and numerous public records requests to get to the bottom of the debacle.

For its part, not only did SEIU downplay the devastating impacts its actions had on every Medicaid-subsidized homecare worker in the state, but the union also straight-up lied about its own responsibility.

The verbiage describing this squirrely payroll outlay is spelled out on page 25 of a blacklined version of the union’s collective bargaining agreement with the Department of Human Services (DHS). Here’s the rub: It isn’t even clear if this particular version of the agreement is currently in force.

DHS could actually be directed by a subsequent agreement our investigators haven’t yet been granted access to.

But regardless of what authority the agency is acting under, SEIU agreed to the timeline that’s causing all this heartburn.

Is it an outrage that DHS is now processing payroll day later, resulting in a two-week delay in the checks arriving? You betcha. But again, SEIU leaders – well-insulated from mundane financial worries thanks to the six-figure salaries they pay themselves out of the workers’ wages – agreed to go along with the plan, demonstrating their customary lack of technical understanding and concern for the rank-and-file. 

Consequently, the Freedom Foundation’s office has functioned as a virtual crisis hotline for members sharing heartbreaking stories of being evicted, losing their cars and/or jobs, being unable to pay their heating bills and more.

Many have thanked us for simply listening as they vent their pent-up frustration and emotion.

SEIU’s response has been predictably weasly. Members tell us they complain to the union, which points the finger at DHS. But when they call the agency, they’re told to contact their union rep.

And round and round it goes.

On March 17, SEIU emailed its members an official response. To the surprise of absolutely no one, the union’s solution is – no joking — to organize. Its buck-passing attorneys are even now recruiting members willing to sign on to a class-action “grievance” against DHS regarding payroll issues.

“After months of voucher and payroll issues that have left thousands of homecare workers high and dry, this is an outrage,” the email brayed.

By definition, a class-action grievance is an allegation that the employer didn’t follow the collective bargaining agreement. Only DHS did. To the letter.

Was it an absurd, unworkable scheme to begin with? Absolutely, but the union leaders helped devise it and then signed on the bottom line.

None of which is meant to exonerate DHS for its role in this comedy of errors. Both sides are equally culpable, and each is backpedaling as rapidly as possible while trying to pin the blame on the other.

It just seems depressingly fitting that SEIU’s preferred fix for its own blunder is to reward itself with even more power and political clout.

SEIU 503 has one job – to negotiate a collective bargaining agreement on behalf of its members. Period. Full stop.

But apparently the union’s other activities – pushing a radical leftist agenda in the Legislature, filing frivolous lawsuits intended to keep its members in the dark about their constitutional rights, and making up lies about the Freedom Foundation – leave little time to worry about petty details like providing competent representation for the thousands of Oregon residents whose paychecks are being skimmed to pay for the union’s bungling.

Lest we forget, the last collective bargaining agreement expired nearly nine months ago. Meanwhile, SEIU 503 is still charging its captive membership millions of dollars to negotiate one contract every two years.

Small wonder so many of them are chomping at the bit to opt out once and for all.

Oregon Director
Anne Marie Gurney is the Oregon Director in at the Freedom Foundation where she focuses on holding local governments and public-sector unions accountable to citizens. She has been a small business owner and a school board member. Anne Marie became a passionate about school choice after working with other parents to keep her children’s online charter school open. Since then she has been active in local politics on issues including education, transportation, labor, and open government. Anne Marie is a graduate of Multnomah University in Portland,where she lives with her family, which includes a dog, a cat and three chickens.