Temporary and on-call employees of Multnomah County want to join the same bargaining unit as their coworkers who are represented by AFSCME Local 88 — but the normally union-friendly County leadership is standing in the way.
On Nov. 8, a delegation of county employees addressed showed up during the public comment portion of a County Commission meeting to ask the chair and commissioners to recognize temporary and on-call workers as part of the union. They got no response from Chair Deborah Kafoury or the three commissioners present. [Commissioner Loretta Smith was absent.]
Oregon AFSCME organizer Eben Pullman says the temporary/on-call group fluctuates from 200 to 300 workers, depending on the season. They’re in departments all over the county such as the library, the animal shelter, corrections, and social service and election offices. They’re used to fill in for regular employees who are absent or on leave, or when county departments need to temporarily staff up. They do the same work as permanent year-round employees, but with lower pay, none of the benefits, no job security or path to permanent status, and no union representation.
Hoping to use collective bargaining to improve their conditions, a majority of the workers signed union authorization cards in early 2017 seeking to join Local 88’s existing county bargaining unit. Under Oregon law that should be all that’s needed to unionize. But the Multnomah County human resources department challenged the filing, saying the on-call workers were casual workers, that the temporary workers lacked a reasonable expectation of continued employment, and that both groups lacked a “community of interest” with the AFSCME unit employees.
An administrative law judge ruled in favor of the County, but the union appealed, and in April, the Oregon Employment Relations Board ordered that another hearing be held to determine whether the on-call workers have a “community of interest” with their permanent counterparts. The hearing is scheduled for Jan. 8, 2019.