What Happened in Salem? Our 2013 Legislative Update

August 6, 2013

Oregon’s 2013 state legislative session recently ended after a busy five months.  We focused on four issues during the session that fit our vision of a family-forward Oregon:

  1. Paid sick days,
  2. Equal pay for equal work,
  3. Retirement Security, and
  4. Domestic Workers’ Rights.

We know you want progress in these areas (and others!) as much as we do, so we’re very pleased to report that we accomplished a lot with our elected and non-profit partners in Oregon’s 2013 legislative session: two of our priority bills passed (pay equity and retirement security studies), and two made significant headway in what is typically a multi-year process.

Here are the session highlights for each of our 4 priority issues:

Paid Sick Days

After the City of Portland unanimously voted for a paid sick days ordinance in March that will cover 260,000 Portland workers starting in 2014 (which is great news!), we turned our attention to a statewide policy we had also been working on with several state legislators. The statewide bill (HB 3390) had two great committee hearings in the House during the session and, importantly, our state legislators became far more aware of the problem and interested in a solution.

Sneezing womanWe are very disappointed that hundreds of thousands of working Oregonians (nearly half!) are being forced to wait even longer for the basic workplace protection having paid sick days brings.  But we were pleased to end the session with a commitment to convene a legislative work group that will meet this fall to discuss the components for a bill that will be introduced in 2014. Stay tuned for next steps – because all working Oregonians need paid sick days, not just Portlanders.  And we’ll need your help to get us there.

Learn more on the Everybody Benefits Oregon paid sick days campaign site.

Equal Pay for Equal Work

While it is definitely bad news that Oregon women earn on average just $0.78 to a man’s dollar for equal work, it is decidedly good news that both the Oregon House and Senate unanimously passed an equal pay study bill (SB 744) in May.  The bill directs the Commission on Civil Rights (operated through the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, aka BOLI) to look for Oregon-specific solutions to this persistent problem.

Equal-Pay-FB-Profile-no FFO logoWhile a study bill in itself will not solve the problem of unequal pay, it does call attention to the issue and lays a path forward for identifying and taking the right steps to close our persistent wage gap.  Stay tuned for the resulting report that will reveal the causes of unequal pay in Oregon and recommend solutions.  We will be paying close attention to the report and pursuing action on the recommendations we support.

Want to know more?  Check out our fact sheet on solving the wage gap and Equal Pay Day Guest Opinion piece in The Oregonian.

Retirement Security

Motherhood is a leading predictor of poverty in old age in the U.S., and Oregon women retire poorer than Oregon men.  Among the poorest quarter of retirees in Oregon a shocking 83% are women. 83%!

To address this problem, we worked closely with the Retirement in Reach coalition to ask the state to research retirement security options for private-sector workers in Oregon.  We’re very pleased that the bill (HB 3436) was successful and look forward to the state’s recommendations to make saving for retirement more accessible for all Oregonians. We’ll remain at the table to advocate for the best solutions as this process moves forward.

Read this August 2013 Guest Opinion piece about retirement security in The Oregonian.

Domestic Workers’ Rights

When we talk about the need for family-friendly workplaces at Family Forward, we include the homes where nannies and housekeepers (aka “domestic workers”) work.  The bad news is that domestic workers were intentionally excluded from the 1938 federal law that guarantees basic rights to our nation’s workers, the Fair Labor Standards Act. This means that the people who make other kinds of work possible for so many Oregonians are excluded from basic things like sexual harassment protections, standard 40-hour work weeks, and a whole lot more. We think it’s high time to correct this 75-year-old labor law exclusion by extending some basic worker’s rights to the almost 10,000 domestic workers in Oregon, 95% of whom are women.

housecleanerimagedwThat’s why we worked this session with Rep. Sara Gelser (Corvallis) to extend basic labor protections to nannies and housekeepers Oregon. The Domestic Workers Protection Act (HB 2672) was passed by the Oregon House of Representatives with bipartisan support but ultimately failed in the Senate.  While we are disappointed that 10,000 Oregonians will continue to work without basic labor protections, we are heartened that some of our state legislators acknowledge the problem and are willing to continue seeking a solution.  And we will continue to nudge them in the right direction – Oregon’s domestic workers deserve nothing less.

Learn more about domestic workers’ rights from the National Domestic Workers Alliance.