AFSCME members ratify first contract at Volunteers of America

About 70 workers at a pair of publicly funded addiction treatment centers ratified their first union contract in a 41-1 vote July 13.

Kay Toran, CEO of  non-profit Volunteers of America (VOA) Oregon, had refused to agree to even basic union contract features during 18 months of bargaining with Oregon AFSCME. But that hard-line stance crumbled a week before VOA’s annual fundraising gala, which the union planned to picket. A union picket would have presented a dilemma for gala guests, including many elected leaders. The June 11 tentative agreement also came three weeks after union supporters occupied VOA offices in an act of civil disobedience for which 10 were arrested.

The new contract provides annual inflation-based cost-of-living increases, if the budget permits. It also gives 3 percent wage increases for workers who have work-related certifications, and it provides holiday pay and an easier path to benefits for part-time relief workers. VOA didn’t agree to a formal wage scale, but did commit to wage “ranges,” with increased wages at the top and bottom of the ranges. The contract also includes standard union contract features such as “just cause” progressive discipline procedures, and union security and dues checkoff. It runs through November 2021.

“[Our members] believe in this organization,” said Oregon AFSCME representative Kathy Formella. “They believe in the work…. They see this as a foundation, building something stronger for the people that come after them in the organization.”

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