Arrow-right Camera


State Workers’ Strike Puts Pinch On Services To Oregonians

Drivers and the unemployed were among those unable to obtain state services Monday after 12,000 union members walked off the job for a three-day general strike.

Oregon Public Employee Union members picketed state office buildings across the state to show their resolve to win a pay hike from the state to offset a two-year wage freeze and a 6 percent pension contribution that takes effect in July.

Hundreds of striking workers carried signs outside office buildings on the Capitol mall in Salem, and about 100 picketers marched outside the State Office Building in Portland.

Management employees filling in for striking workers were able to keep state mental hospitals operating, along with other critical services such as protecting abused or neglected children, said state spokesman Mark Fryburg.

However, it was clear that the strike was crippling other services to Oregonians.

Because of a lack of staff, the state Department of Motor Vehicles closed all its branch offices but the one in John Day, making it impossible for people to renew their driver’s licenses or vehicle registrations.

People seeking renewals by mail also faced delays, a spokeswoman for the agency said.

“We have 75 people in our headquarters today instead of the usual 500 workers,” Janis Collins said.

The Oregon Employment Department closed 13 of its 44 field offices, and services were cut back at Southern Oregon State College in Ashland.

Employment Department officials said they hoped to be able to send out about 30,000 unemployment checks as scheduled this week, but computers listing job openings and other services for the unemployed were shut down.

It was business as usual for the Legislature at the state Capitol. OPEU leaders said they didn’t want to force people sympathetic to them to decide whether to cross a picket line.

According to state figures, 3,370 state workers represented by the OPEU about 22 percent of those scheduled to work Monday - showed up for work after last-minute talks on Sunday failed to produce an agreement. The OPEU represents about a third of state workers.

The strike is aimed at pressuring the state to grant workers a 6.5 percent pay raise.

In July, workers’ pay will be cut by 6 percent under a ballot measure that requires them to begin contributing that amount to their retirement plans. Voters passed the ballot measure last fall.

The state has offered a 2 percent pay raise, saying that’s as much as it can afford.

Union workers have been told by their leaders to prepare for a three-day general strike. Union officials have declined to say what form the strike will take after that.

“This strike will not end until we have a settlement,” OPEU President Karla Spence told a worker rally Monday across the street from the Capitol.

xxxx AFFECTED SERVICES Some of the state services that may be delayed or halted due to the strike:

BUSINESS SERVICES Insurance licenses may be delayed. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, scheduled routine inspections will be halted. Exceptions will be made for reports of imminent danger and fatalities.

DRIVERS All but one of the 66 Department of Motor Vehicles offices are closed. John Day remains open.

EMPLOYMENT Some unemployment checks may be delayed. Computers listing jobs are shut down at Employment Division.

HIGHER EDUCATION Campuses may reduce library hours. Campus child care centers at the University of Oregon and Portland State University will close. Student Health Services will provide urgent care.

HUMAN RESOURCES Welfare checks and food stamps may be delayed; call Adult and Family Services in case of a financial emergency. Some court appearances, supervised visits and potential adoptive and foster parent checks will be canceled. Contact CSD office closest to your area in case of an emergency. -Associated Press