By DON McINTOSH
The AFT-Oregon convention was something to behold. Meeting April 28-30 in Sunriver, Oregon, 101 delegates from 19 locals transformed the state organization’s structure and replaced its entire top leadership with members of an 11-candidate slate.
With roughly 8,000 members in affiliated locals, AFT-Oregon represents classified support workers at K-12 schools and community colleges, university and community college faculty, and graduate student employees.
Thanks to a member-approved referendum proposed by the slate, its convention was hybrid — enabling 18 delegates to take part remotely by video, while the other 83 gathered in person at the Homestead Gallery meeting hall. [The 2021 convention was conducted entirely online.]
Here are some highlights of the agenda they enacted:
- $1 MILLION STRIKE FUND Dedicate more than $1 million from an underused Solidarity Fund toward a strike fund, with benefits to kick in one week into a strike. Going forward, 11.92% of dues will go into the strike fund.
- GREATER TRANSPARENCY Remove obstacles for members to attend state executive council meetings, and post meeting agendas, calendars, bylaws, and current and former convention resolutions online.
- NO MORE ROBERT’S RULES Direct that future conventions use a to-be-determined consensus-based decision-making process, with majority votes if no consensus is reached.
- LESS CENTRALIZED EXECUTIVE Uses of executive authority will require approval of both of the top elected officers, with the executive council deciding in the event of deadlock.
- EXPANDED EXECUTIVE COUNCIL Increase the union’s leadership body from 15 to 19 members, and assign each member specific duties, like representing K-12 workers, or heading political action.
- END USE OF OUTSIDE LOBBYING FIRMS Terminate AFT-Oregon’s relationship with Mahonia Public Affairs and end the practice of contracting with outside for-profit political, legislative and government affairs firms, instead training and relying on staff and members to do that work.
These were substantial changes, and after three hours of deliberation and near-unanimous votes, Constitutional Amendment Committee co-chair Ted Cooper walked off the stage to a standing ovation.
One change that didn’t pass was a resolution for direct election by member of statewide officers. As one delegate argued, most members might be familiar with their own local but know little about the statewide body; asking them to choose its leaders would mean uninformed voting and maybe greater randomness.
The convention’s final day began with speeches by candidates for AFT-Oregon leadership. Decked out in red sashes emblazoned with the words “Democracy is Power,” members of a “Democracy Caucus” slate ran for 11 of the 15 officer positions, and won every one.
Heading up the slate were Ariana Jacob and Ted Cooper. Jacob is an adjunct faculty member teaching art at Portland State University and bargaining co-chair of the PSU Faculty Association, AFT Local 3571. Cooper is a Ph.D. student in computer science and former president of PSU’s Graduate Employees Union (AFT Local 6666), which he helped found. Jacob won with 84% of the vote against incumbent Jaime Rodriguez and fellow challenger Jeff Grider, president of the PCC faculty local, who campaigned remotely by video. Cooper was unopposed.
Two-term incumbent president Jaime Rodriguez will remain in office through June 30 and said he will continue to serve the union in whatever capacity he can.
President is the only elected officer position that is compensated as a full-time job, but Jacob said she and Cooper plan to split the salary so they can both devote themselves to union work full time.
- President Ariana Jacob, PSUFA Local 3571
- Executive Vice President Ted Cooper, GEU Local 6666
- Treasurer Bill Harbaugh, UAUO Local 3209
- Secretary Fara Broughton, CGE Local 6069
- VP of Political Action Hollie Oakes-Miller, PCCFFAP Local 2277
What’s in a name?
American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-Oregon. That must be the union that Oregon teachers belong to, right? Not exactly. One-time rival Oregon Education Association represents K-12 teachers in Oregon. AFT-Oregon brings together school support workers, college faculty, and grad student workers. And AFT-Oregon itself is just one of four large Oregon unions directly affiliated with AFT. The others are Oregon School Employees Association, Oregon Nurses Association, and Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals.
Correction: Jeff Grider is president of the PCC classified local (not the faculty local).
Thanks for the correction! I’ve updated the article.
Ariana is misidentified as Amanda in the photo. Great article, Ted Cooper’s got that dog in him.
Good lord, we’re coming to pieces! That’s embarrassing. It’s been corrected now. Thanks so much for catching that and letting us know.