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Legislative staff in Oregon become first in nation to unionize

SALEM, Ore. (AP) — Legislative employees within Oregon’s Capitol will become the first in the nation to unionize, after a 75-31 vote by staff members on Friday, Oregon Public Broadcasting reported.

The unionization, which has been informally discussed for years, means that 180 Capitol aides will be joining International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 89 and can begin taking steps toward bargaining with the Legislature on a contract for the first time.

“We’re moving forward,” Tony Ruiz, an organizer with Local 89, said following the vote. “This was truly bipartisan support.”

Legislative aides help lawmakers with scheduling, keeping track of bills and votes, community relations, policy work and serve as liaisons between state agencies. The hours they work can be extended beyond the typical 9 a.m. to 5 p.m. as floor sessions, and committee meetings can carry on into the night.

But, Friday’s vote was not without challenges. Oregon Public Broadcasting reported that legislative leadership challenged some of the ballots on the grounds that certain staff members don’t qualify to be union members because they hold supervisory or managerial positions, or have “confidential” duties.

The Oregon’s Employment Relations Board read off the ballots Friday morning and noted that 30 votes were “impounded” on those grounds and two others were void for lack of a signature bringing the total vote count to 106.

The unionization goal has also faced a fair share of opponents this session as well.

Department of Justice lawyer Tessa Sugahara, representing the Legislature, has repeatedly argued an employee union is “fundamentally incompatible” with the work lawmakers do.

 

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