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Spokane, Washington  Est. May 19, 1883

Labor union aims to bring back Oregon ban on self-serve gas

By Jayati Ramakrishnan Oregonian

One of Oregon’s largest labor unions is trying to ban self-service at gas stations just months after lawmakers voted to legalize it.

UFCW Local 555, which represents workers in the grocery, retail, manufacturing and health care industries, said the policy allowing self-serve that took effect in August has cost gas station workers their jobs and has not benefited customers.

“It doesn’t do anything good for Oregonians unless you’re a gas station owner or have a stake in a large oil company,” said UFCW Local 555 Political Director Mike Selvaggio. “It makes gas stations more dangerous and less accessible to people with accessibility issues.”

The ballot measure would seek to ban all self-serve gas in Oregon, including in rural counties, where customers have been able to pump their own gas at night since 2015. It would continue to allow some non-commercial customers, like firefighters, to pump their own gas.

Oregon Public Broadcasting first reported on the ballot measure.

Oregon lawmakers voted in June to reverse a decades-old ban on self-serve gasoline, which distinguished Oregon from every other U.S. state except New Jersey.

The bill had bipartisan support in the Legislature but remained polarizing even after its passage. Gov. Tina Kotek said she received nearly 5,000 letters from Oregonians on the bill before she signed it, with a “narrow majority” supporting the new policy.

The Legislature had grappled with the longstanding full-service law before, and in 2015 loosened the law to allow self service at night in rural counties.

Under the newest policy, Oregon gas stations are still required to staff at least half of their pumps to serve drivers who don’t want to or can’t pump their own gas. Fuel companies said they wouldn’t lay off employees due to the new law because ongoing worker shortages have already left many stations understaffed.

But Selvaggio said that hasn’t been the case, and that the union has seen gas station positions eliminated – though some of those employees have been moved to work inside stores.

UFCW Local 555 is trying to get several other measures on next year’s ballot, including efforts to prevent lawmakers from meeting in secret and to limit campaign contributions.

The union earlier this year collected enough signatures to mount a recall election against Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene. It was the first recall election against an Oregon lawmaker in nearly 40 years. The union was at odds with Holvey after he tabled a bill to allow cannabis workers to unionize.

Eugene voters, though, overwhelmingly rejected the effort to remove Holvey earlier this month.

The union must collect 112,000 signatures to get the self-serve ban measure on the November 2024 ballot.