Union has changed its focus

This is a response to then guest opinion "Union has changed lives of home care workers"0 by Rebecca Sandoval published Sept. 3. For the record: I am a home care worker and dues-paying member of Service Employees International Union Local 503. I am pro-union. I am anti bad union leadership.

SEIU Local 503 may have started out focused on worker safety and fair pay. But in 2017, those concerns have taken a back seat to union leadership playing politics under the guise of working for members. A quick glance at the 2016 LM-2 report filed with the U.S. Labor Department shows $2,677,569 was spent on Political Activities and Lobbying. That is probably an understatement because $90,853 went to Strategies 360 (a public affairs firm) and $142,380 went to John Sladkus (a former SEIU staffer) as information technology consultant expenses. However, research shows these entities engage in politics and have no IT background.

To obtain a provider number to be a home care worker in Oregon, you have to pass a criminal background check and take a three-hour orientation. No other training or experience is required. To date, I have taken 27 training classes and earned my professional development certification.

After taking the Preventing Disease Transmission training, I notified SEIU Local 503, the Department of Human Services and the Oregon Home Care Commission that this class should be mandatory before allowing home care workers to work. This is a safety issue for the worker, the employer and anyone entering the employer's home. Home care workers are not informed if the employer has any contagious or communicable disease due to privacy laws. The union has done nothing on this issue. Worker safety is one reason why unions exist.

Local 503 leadership is not responsive to members' concerns, issues or questions. Calls to headquarters are answered by a machine, but the receptionist makes over $50,000 a year. Calls to the member resource center are answered by a machine and may not get returned for days. Yet, most organizers make $50,000 to $90,000 a year. The board of directors meeting agendas do not include members' issues or concerns as items. Instead, the top two items are Finance Committee and Political Report. I asked to have an item placed on the agenda and my request was denied. This is the tail wagging the dog.

Local 503 leadership does not want membership communicating with each other, especially home care workers. Home care workers have a constitutional right to opt out of the union, which is something the leadership does not tell prospects. Local 503 leadership does not have a forum for members to contact each other. Members are not permitted to place items on meeting agendas because the leadership does not want members discussing things like how their dues are spent. Members are denied access to the membership list under the guise of “protecting privacy.” What is ironic is Local 503 gets information about people applying to become home care workers from the Oregon Department of Human Services and the Oregon Home Care Commission without the consent of the applicants.

The SEIU Local 503 bylaws contain members' rights but do not contain any recourse or remedy when leadership or staff violates members' rights. SEIU Local 503 resembles George Orwell's Animal Farm: “All members are equal but some members are more equal than others.”

You, dear reader, should care about all of this because SEIU Local 503 spent over $2.6 million of members' dues on political measures that you may not agree with. Those same measures may adversely affect your taxes. And finally, you should care because most of the state workers in Oregon are members of SEIU Local 503.

— Avery T. Horton Jr. of Bandon is an SEIU member.

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