American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 111 has converted more than 130 “fair share” employees to full union membership so far this year.
Local 111 — also known as Portland Federation of School Professionals — represents about 1,300 support staff at Portland Public Schools, including special ed para-educators. classroom education assistants, school secretaries and close to 60 other occupational classifications. But after a wave of retirements last year, less than half of those working under the terms of the union contract were full-fledged union members. Under Oregon law, union-represented public employees who don’t want to join the union may pay a reduced “fair share” fee covering just the cost of bargaining and grievance handling. At PPS, fair share has been the default setting for new hires, and Local 111 president Belinda Reagan says many represented employees thought they were union members.
So in letters and in organized phone banks, union staff and member volunteers are reaching out to non-members to pitch the value of union membership. The difference amounts to $5 to $8 a month, and members can vote on the contract and elect union leadership, as well as get access to union member discounts and life insurance. But the most important benefit of membership, Reagan said, is that it shows management the union has broad support when it comes time to bargain a contract.
“While we have a really terrific relationship with PPS, there are times we need those voices behind us,” Reagan said.
As of late May, Local 111 had converted 132 fair share employees to full membership, bringing the total to 655.
Members of Portland Federation of School Professionals, American Federation of Teachers (AFT) Local 111, returned incumbents to union office at their May general membership meeting. They are: Belinda Reagan, President; Tim Taylor, treasurer; and Michele Catena and Ryan Arditi, vice presidents at large. All terms of office start July 1 and run two years.