OSSA Response to Personal Support Worker Agreement 06.25.2012

Under the headline Historic Tentative Agreement Reached for Care Providers, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 503 has described the negotiated agreement for Personal Support Workers who are employed by customers of brokerages.

View SEIU’s document here

Although the actual Collective Bargaining Agreement has not been published yet, some of the thirteen points made by SEIU in its document will need to be closely monitored to ensure the philosophy and practices that Oregonians with intellectual and developmental disabilities and their families fought so hard for in the Staley Agreement are maintained with the highest integrity. Most notably, the disability community must be vigilant in its advocacy for people with disabilities to continue to design and direct their own supports.

As brokerages have proven for the past eleven years, our customer and family advocacy efforts will continue and we hope to have as much success in the future as we have demonstrated in the past. Despite multiple budget cuts and constant expansion of administrative requirements, our services have remained strong and intact and Oregon’s person-centered model is known nationwide.

Please continue reading for a point-by-point response to the document’s points.


  • SEIU: Clear, consistent standards: (The Agreement) requires brokerages to clearly communicate all policies and procedures on items like payable services and creates a committee to give Personal Support workers a voice in the creation of a centralized payroll system to ensure timely payments.
  • OSSA: We agree that clear, consistent standards (especially in the ever-changing face of our service delivery systems) are helpful and necessary practices. Our hope is that this will occur within a context of local control of customer services.


  • SEIU:  Issues Committee: (The Agreement) provides us with an ongoing forum to meet with the State to problem solve program inconsistencies, consider initiatives to improve our work lives, and discuss problems that may impact sizeable groups of workers.
  • OSSA: An “Issues Committee” for problem solving and consideration of initiatives can be an effective forum as it has been for other efforts within the Oregon Home Care Commission. Support services brokerages will continue to advocate for self-advocates to be at the center of any and all discussions that might affect the quality, cost, or duration of their supports.


  • SEIU: Person-Centered Planning: (The Agreement) recognizes that our service plans should reflect person-centered planning
  • OSSA: Person-Centered Planning does recognize that the brokerage customer’s plan is person-centered and indeed, Oregon has long been recognized as a leader in efforts to ensure that people with disabilities direct their own supports.


  • SEIU: Training:  (The Agreement) provides strong worker representation on a committee to develop relevant training classes and identify professional development opportunities.
  • OSSA: Since inclusion in the Home Care Commission, training has been a welcome addition to opportunities for the employees of support services customers. Brokerages have done considerable outreach to share information regarding HCC trainings and will continue to do so.


  • SEIU: Improved Communication: (The Agreement) guarantees we get a job duty description before beginning work. If state funding for hours and/or services changes, our union will be notified within 7 days after consumers are informed.
  • OSSA: Strong and effective communication is essential to ensure people are getting the supports they need to achieve their goals. CMS’ requirement that all services be authorized by service recipients prior to service delivery provides a strong incentive for customers and their employees to communicate openly and regularly.


  • SEIU: Wage Increase: (The Agreement allows) increases in wages of 1.25% for workers outside of the Independent Choices and the PC-20 Programs effective 4/1/12. Workers in the PC-20 Program will be increased to $10.20/hour effective the first full month after ratification. Wage increases should not impact a consumer’s ability to purchase services.
  • OSSA: Support service brokerages support the payment of living wages to all workers in development disability services and we agree that wage increases should not impact a customer’s ability to purchase services. How wage increases will happen without impacting customers’ ability to purchases services has not been defined nor addressed yet by ODDS or by SEIU.


  • SEIU: Grievance Procedure: (The Agreement) creates a binding process to resolve contract violations.
  • OSSA: Support services brokerages believe that a formal grievance procedure is an appropriate method of resolving contract violations.


  • SEIU: Union Rights: (The Agreement) ensures that the state will provide us with the information we need to stay organized and in contact with each other as providers, dues and fair share payroll deductions and easier access to important information from our union at free trainings. Our union can share information about our rights and how to protect services for our consumers before and after Oregon Home Care Commission trainings. If orientations are scheduled, then we can also have twenty minutes of guaranteed time to learn more about our contract and our union rights.
  • OSSA: Union rights require the state to provide information from all of the entities affected by House Bill 3618 and there has been significant effort to problem solve the complexities of information sharing from the local level.


  • SEIU: No Discrimination:  (The Agreement) protects us against discrimination based race, sex, sexual orientation, and other protected statuses.
  • OSSA: Support services brokerages support and have always supported including anti-discrimination policies. They are a hallmark of our rights as citizens.


  • SEIU: Worker’s Compensation: (The Agreement) protects us if we are injured on the job.
  • OSSA: Worker’s compensation has been a concern for support services brokerages for more than 10 years and it was a welcome result of the inclusion of support services providers in the Home Care Commission after the passage of House Bill 3618.


  • SEIU: Registry & Referral System:  (The Agreement) gives us a voice in creating a referral system so we can find work and respite caregivers easier.
  • OSSA: We believe a registry and referral system has the potential to add enormous value to the many customers and families who are challenged to find appropriate providers to meet support needs.


  • SEIU: Mileage Reimbursement:  (The Agreement) protects and improves our access to mileage reimbursement. Consumers may authorize medical mileage to be paid directly to personal support workers and authorized mileage will be reimbursed even if our consumer is no longer eligible for services.
  • OSSA: Mileage reimbursement is commonplace in support services and has been since the inception of brokerages. However, current support services Oregon Administrative Rules prohibit reimbursement for medical mileage. Brokerages will look to ODDS to resolve this and any other conflicts that might arise between the collective bargaining agreement and current OARs.


  • SEIU: Wage Overpayments: (The Agreement) creates first-time overpayment rights. If paid by a voucher, workers can repay an overpayment in 5% intervals. If paid by an invoice system and an overpayment is discovered after 10 days, personal support workers have a voice in deciding a reasonable overpayment system.
  • OSSA: Support service brokerages take their responsibility as custodians of public funds very seriously. In the rare circumstance that a wage overpayment occurs we make every effort to address the overpayment quickly and fairly. Naturally, we must ensure that the number one priority is continued availability of funds so that no lapse in essential customer supports occurs.

We look forward to the continued success of self-directed supports with each new change and will continue to advocate for adults with developmental disabilities in our services.

Margaret Theisen (Full Access) – OSSA President
Dan Peccia (Self Determination Resources Inc.) – OSSA Vice President
Bill Uhlman (Eastern Oregon Support Services Brokerage) – OSSA Secretary/ Treasurer
Barbara Hedrick (Creative Supports Inc.)

Ed Little, Jr. (Mentor Oregon Brokerage – South)
Barbara Charette (Southern Oregon Regional Brokerage)
Bev Herrin (Resource Connections of Oregon)
Jill Ferns (Integrated Services Network)
Howard Miller (Inclusion Inc.)
Larry Deal (Independence Northwest)
Katie Rose (Mentor Oregon Brokerage – Metro)
Jennifer Bickett (Community Pathways Inc.)
Sarah Knight (UCP Connections)


OREGONIAN REPORT: Senator Richard Devlin Accused of Trying to Silence Criticism of Union Drive

From  The Oregonian’s Jeff Mapes:

SALEM — At the behest of Service Employees International Union, Oregon Senate budget chief Richard Devlin  sought to stifle criticism of an organizing drive that added more than 7,700 workers to the union’s membership and turned it into the largest in the state.

During a drive to organize workers who help care for developmentally disabled Oregonians, Tualatin Democrat wrote a letter to officials who help employ the workers, warning them not to say anything even “mildly” critical of unionization. He also suggested that a successful union drive would help boost legislative support for services for Oregonians with developmental disabilities. .

Several officials who received the letter said it appeared Devlin tried to tip the scales in favor of the union’s expansion. Devlin said that wasn’t his intent.

Nevertheless, Devlin’s letter illustrates how closely the powerful public employee unions and supportive politicians work with each other behind the scenes. In the end, SEIU won its organizing fight. As a result, the union has now passed the Oregon Education Association to become the largest union in the state, with 60,000 members.

SEIU financially backed Devlin’s reelection last year and has been a key supporter of the Democratic legislative leadership. The union continues to work with the Legislature to expand its membership. Union lobbyists are trying to push through legislation allowing them to organize an entirely new category of community health workers expected to be created this year as part of Gov. John Kitzhaber’s drive to reduce health-care costs.

The organizing drive for workers who help care for the developmentally disabled was particularly sensitive — and unusual. Several brokerages, most of them nonprofits, help people with disabilities such as cerebral palsy or autism get the services they need to stay out of institutions and live as independently as possible. Most of the caregivers paid by the state through the brokerages are actually family members of the clients, who are technically the employers.

Devlin’s letter (reprinted below), which he sent to the brokerages, came as a surprise. While many officials said they had concerns about how unionization would affect their clients, they had not mounted any major campaign against it.

“When I read it, it sounded threatening,” said Barb Charette, executive director of the Southern Oregon Regional Brokerage. She said Devlin’s letter made it clear that he had a powerful position over the state budget and left the impression their funding could be affected if they weren’t careful about what they said about unionization.

As a result of the letter, “I’m much more cautious” in talking about the possible ramifications of unionization, said Zee Koza, board president of Eastern Oregon Support Services Brokerage. Several other people involved in the care of people with developmental disabilities said they did not want to speak on the record for fear of affecting legislative support for their programs.

In his letter, which was sent last December and obtained by The Oregonian this week, Devlin said it was a “misuse of public funds to participate in efforts meant to dissuade support service workers from exercising their collective bargaining rights. Even mildly worded communications against collective bargaining will carry disproportionate weight because of your role in providing services.”

Devlin referred to his budget position and added: “If support service workers choose to form a union, I believe they will be able to significantly strengthen our collective ability to preserve funding and enhance services.”

Devlin said he decided to send the letter after hearing that some workers were being told that joining a union “might diminish their opportunities for employment in the future” and that he didn’t want anyone “thwarting” a worker’s collective bargaining rights.

Devlin insists he wasn’t trying to tilt the playing field in favor of the union and that he wasn’t trying to gag the brokerages.

Margaret Theisen, who heads a Eugene brokerage and is president of a statewide association representing them, said she was not aware of any workers being told that unionization would threaten their employment. She said the big question was whether increased costs for a union workforce would reduce the services that could be provided to clients.

Read the entire article and see Senator Devlin’s letter to the brokerages here.


SEIU Gets Personal Support Workers Vote – Includes Domestic Employees and Independent Contractors

Last week, the vote for SEIU’s unionization of Personal Support Workers was held.

Final tally per the Employment Relations Board is 1,873 to 772. This means that Personal Support Workers are now set to be represented by SEIU and arbitration is expected to begin shortly.

A Personal Support Worker is defined in House Bill 3618. The majority of domestic employees and independent contractors working with brokerage customers will be affected.

Of a potential voting population of 9,000, just 30% voted. The union won the majority of votes cast.

Those affected include the majority of domestic employees and independent contractors performing services listed in House Bill 3618. This affects brokerage providers as well as those working with the Community Developmental Disabilities Programs and some mental health programs.