The 2019 legislative session in Oregon drew to a close on the last day of June with a flood of bills passing onto the governor’s desk.
As we said back in April, the session was bursting with bills that could bring positive change to the lives of working families in Oregon. Now that all is said and done we can pause to reflect on massive wins such as Paid Family and Medical Leave (HB 2005) and Rent Control (SB 608), both of which will bring unprecedented security and stability for our members.
Countless workers must leave their loved one’s side, their newborn or newly adopted children, or forego their own care because they simply cannot afford to take time off work. Starting in 2023, Oregon will have the most progressive paid family and medical leave policy in the country, giving twelve weeks of paid time off at 100% of a worker’s regular wages to low-wage workers. The union backed bill reflects Oregon values, including time-off for survivors of domestic violence as well as an inclusive interpretation of what relationships constitute a family.
Every one of us cares passionately about the fight for higher wages, but when housing costs far outpace any average person’s wage increases, workers just can’t keep up. This year legislators addressed this conundrum by passing first in-the-nation statewide rent control, disallowing buildings over 15 years old to raise the rent more than 7% plus the cost of inflation. The bill also puts a stop to most no-cause evictions. This means fewer workers will be evicted or priced out of their homes, offering more housing stability for all.
While this session featured several historic bills, we would like to also shine the spotlight on legislation that didn’t make national news. HB 3194, a gasoline self-service bill that would have eliminated many fuel attendants jobs, never left the House, due in large part to our lobby day efforts to halt the bill. Together we saved 500+ members’ jobs.
Another case of solidarity in action: we mobilized members and the community at large to save the Political Tax Credit that allows Oregon members to get back $50 back per person for political contributions. (In other words, a couple who each donate $1/week to the Active Ballot Club will get all but $4 back at tax-time!) Those efforts were successful: the credit remains through at least 2026, and anyone making less than $75k annually (individual) or $150k annually (as a family) is eligible for the credit.
As always, we celebrate these wins while planning ahead for the next steps. An exciting ballot initiative you can expect to see on the November 2020 ballot is The Oregon Taxpayer Reimbursement Act (OTRA), which would curtail corporations’ ability to essentially subsidize public assistance programs for underpaid employees using taxpayer dollars. There is no excuse for a full-time worker being paid so poorly they’re forced to rely on public assistance.
And then, of course, there’s the little matter of the 2020 General Election to keep an eye on.
My sincerest thanks to everyone who has, is, and will put in the work to better our members’ lives and the lives of all Oregonians. Together we prove that when we fight, we win!