The on-call & temp campaign thus far, and the coming year

If you began reading this newsletter recently, you may be wondering how the on-call and temporary workers campaign got to where we are today.  Here’s a little history to catch you up:

In the spring of 2017 dozens of on-call, temporary, full-time and part-time staff volunteered for a union organizing drive.  They visited on-call and temp workers at jobsites and at home, and asked them if they support unionization. The majority said yes — over 50% signed cards authorizing Local 88 to represent them.

For Oregon public employees, winning a union card drive means the affected workers get representation.  So it sounds like we won, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, not quite yet.

When we presented the authorization cards, the county raised technical objections, speciously arguing that on-call and temp workers don’t share interests with full-time and part-time staff, and thus can’t be in the same bargaining unit.  The dispute went to the Oregon Employment Relations Board, where an administrative law judge sided with the county. The union appealed, and the original decision was overturned. A new hearing is scheduled for early 2019.

However, we are not waiting for the courts to figure this out.  The union has already offered the county a proposal based on the priorities on-call and temp staff reported in a survey.  (The survey is still open; if you haven’t filled it out, now’s the time!)

The majority of on-call and temp workers said yes — over 50% signed cards authorizing Local 88 to represent them.

And we are continuing to pressure the county.  In November, half a dozen workers testified before the county commission, urging them to recognize temp and on-call employees as part of Local 88.  In the weeks since, workers and union staff have held a series of meetings with individual county commissioners, answering their questions about the campaign and urging them to instruct the Human Resources department to negotiate.  The commissioners have seemed receptive, but until they agree to recognize on-call and temp workers as part of the union, we will need to apply increasing pressure.

2019 will open a new phase in the campaign, with a series of escalating actions to force the county to the table.  Your support, your energy, and your ideas are urgently needed! All on-call and temp workers and their supporters are welcome and encouraged to help plan the next steps of the campaign.  

How can you help?  Look out for an announcement of the next organizing meeting, in late December or early January.  And if you’re eager to step up sooner, contact Kristian Williams at kwilliams@afscmelocal88.org.

We can do this, but the only way forward is together, with as many workers at the table as possible.  Join us!

On-call library workers win appreciation award

Multnomah County Library’s on-call employees (all 93 of them!) recently won the library’s Fall 2018 “Rosie” employee recognition award.  The award is given twice-yearly to salute exceptional performance: staff nominate their coworkers, and winners are decided by a vote of all library staff.

The nomination for the on-call workers’ award noted that they “work tirelessly everyday with very little recognition.  If it weren’t for them, many of our neighborhood branches would at times have to shut their doors to the public. The knowledge, ability, and amount of training of our On-Call Staff is equal to or exceeds that of our regular status employees.”

On-call library workers’ Rosie award certificate.
Clearly, Multnomah County Library’s permanent staff respect the work that their on-call colleagues are doing, and they understand that we share common work duties and a common goal to provide excellent service to the community.  The only difference is that we don’t share common benefits, pay, and protections. Now it is up to the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners and Human Resources department to show whether this respect for on-call staff extends all the way to the top of the organization.

Worker profile: Sara García González

Sara García González loves being a library assistant.  

She works on-call in libraries across East County, in the neighborhoods close to where she lives.  Sara says she enjoys the surprises and small victories she can achieve helping library patrons who are looking for information, a good book, a little help using their smartphone, or connection to a community service.  She loves creating and presenting Spanish-language storytimes for children and families.

And she especially loves the welcome she gets from permanent staff at the locations where she’s subbing.  “When they see me, they are happy,” she says. “They ask me to take shifts.”

Sara knows first-hand why on-call staff are so valued — they are vital to the library’s operations.  “We are there when staff are in a meeting or training, when someone is out sick; any time there is a need,” she says.  On-call staff work hard to make sure that the daily work of the branch goes smoothly, no matter what.


Sara says that even though her work is rewarding, there are a lot of downsides to working on call.  It’s difficult to keep up with training and professional development — on-call staff can only get approval for a small amount of training hours.  There are no scheduled pay increases, no holidays, no vacation pay. Library on-call staff sign up for shifts in advance, but they can only see two weeks of available jobs, which makes it hard to plan for family and personal obligations — and hard to feel secure about getting enough work to pay the bills.  And, Sara says, “I don’t have a regular supervisor. If you have something you really want to share in the moment, you can’t. If I email my supervisor, he answers pretty quickly, but it’s not the same as meeting in person.”

Sara says she’s involved in the campaign to unionize on-call and temporary staff because their work is truly vital, to the public, to the county and to their full- and part-time colleagues.  “I want the county to hear our voices not just because I am on-call myself, but because all on-call staff have dignity and value,” she says.

Her message to her fellow temporary and on-call workers is: “I invite you, I really encourage you to participate in the campaign.  Just ask questions, and share your story. Your work matters.”


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