Two years after voting to join Communications Workers of America Local 7901, the two dozen workers at a Portland call center run by the Fund for the Public Interest still have no union contract. But they’ve yet to give up, either. On Oct. 11, they engaged in a work stoppage marking the two-year point.
Fund for the Public Interest, based in Boston, is the fundraising wing of the national network that includes state Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs) and state environmental groups like Environment Oregon. The Fund fires workers at an extraordinary rate for all kinds of infractions, especially missing quotas, which workers have no control over setting.
The Portland call center workers unionized chiefly to win at least slight improvements in job security.
But in two years of once-a-month bargaining with national Telephone Outreach Project director Pat Wood, the Fund hasn’t agreed to even basic union contract principles like “just cause” (the requirement that an employer show a reason before firing you), and “union security” (an agreement that represented workers will pay dues.)
“They want to give us ‘open shop,’” said striking phone fundraiser Anya Dagnall. “We think if everybody’s going to have the same rights, that everyone should pay union dues.”
So at 4 p.m., all 12 callers who were working the Friday afternoon shift on Oct. 11 took a paid break, signed back into their computer stations, then got up, walked out, and left the building — two hours before the scheduled closing time. They marched to a nearby office that houses OSPIRG, Environment Oregon, and the Fund for the Public Interest door-to-door canvass operation. There they found lights on inside, but doors locked. No one at the OSPIRG office responded to the doorbell or to phone calls.
“We’re going to keep fighting,” Dagnall said. “We’re not going to be silenced.”