Murmurs: SEIU Dues Feeling the Blues

In other news: Milepost 5 waffles on promise to pay artists' moving costs.

Purple sunset on the Hawthorne Bridge. (Motoya Nakamura / Multnomah County)

SEIU Dues Feeling the Blues: The anti-union Freedom Foundation released new figures this week showing what it says is the waning strength of Service Employees International Union. The figures indicate just 67 percent of the nearly 24,000 SEIU members who work for the state of Oregon now pay dues. That's down from 74 percent last December and nearly 100 percent prior to a June 2018 U.S. Supreme Court ruling that allowed members to stop paying. Freedom Foundation spokesman Aaron Withe says that's proof his group's anti-union campaign is working. SEIU Local 503 executive director Melissa Unger says the union expected the increase in free riders, but overall membership is growing steadily. "Bottom line," Unger says, "we haven't lost any power."

Landlord Waffles on Promise to Pay Artists' Moving Costs: Milepost 5, an affordable housing development for artists on Southeast 82nd Avenue, issued a notice to tenants this month that appeared to backtrack on a pledge to pay their moving costs. The tenants are being forced to move because they make too much money—the new owner of the property, a developer called Community Development Partners, wants to qualify for a government subsidy as affordable housing. Last year, after being contacted by WW, CDP pledged to pay moving costs. When contacted by WW again this week, the company renewed its pledge to cover relocation expenses of the three tenants it says must move out because their income is too high. The property manager had given an apparently misleading notice to at least one of the tenants.

Governor Seeks to Energize Base With LGBTQ+ Order: On Oct. 25, Gov. Kate Brown will issue an executive order "ensuring equal protection under the law for Oregon's LGBTQ+ community." Oregon ranks second in the country in legal protections for LGBTQ+ residents, trailing only California, according to Basic Rights Oregon. But Brown spokeswoman Kate Kondayen says the governor has identified a gap: state employees who work in spaces not accessible to the public may not be protected by existing laws. As Brown, a lame duck, approaches the 2020 legislative session with iffy prospects for a revamp of cap and trade legislation that failed last year, updating an anti-discrimination executive order written in 1987 could present an opportunity to energize her base. "This gap has remained unaddressed since the original executive order," Kondayen says, "and the governor wanted to ensure everyone enjoys equal protections in every space, while modernizing the reach of the original [order]."

Walking Bridge Could Get Famous Name: For years, Portland transportation planners have been aiming to build a walking and bicycle bridge over Interstate 405 in the Pearl District. Construction is slated to begin next year. The project has always gone by the name "Flanders Crossing," since it would extend Northwest Flanders Street across the highway. But at an Oct. 1 meeting of the Pearl District Neighborhood Association's transportation committee, co-chair Reza Farhoodi offered another idea. "He suggested two candidates that may be worth considering: Ursula Le Guin, the author based in Northwest Portland who recently passed away, and Beatrice Morrow Cannady, one of Oregon's early civil rights advocates who spent much of her time in what became the Pearl District in the early 20th century, when it was a thriving African American neighborhood," meeting minutes say. Other committee members suggested a name change could be confusing—and that it might be better to contact cartoonist Matt Groening and ask to name the bridge after Simpsons do-gooder Ned Flanders.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.