Workers at Oregon Public Broadcasting who are unionized with the Service Employees International Union Local 570 are holding a picket tomorrow morning in a demand for higher wages.

Workers plan to rally outside of the building at 7140 SW Macadam Ave. from 9:30 to 10:30 am tomorrow.

Unionized workers make up many divisions of OPB, including mail clerks, videographers and tech support. No reporters, producers or managers are in the union.

According to union release, workers are demanding a new contract before their current contract expires on Dec. 31. At a bargaining session with OPB management on Nov. 21, union president Ikesha Owens says executives passed a proposal to stop tracking and sharing the names of workers hired into the bargaining unit and to stop collecting dues for those workers.

OPB used to be owned and operated by the state (it severed ties with the state government in 1993), and departments that were unionized with the SEIU remained so when the station became a privatized nonprofit. That now means that when employees are hired into a unionized department, it is management's job to inform those employees and to subtract dues from their paycheck to give to the SEIU. If management stops tracking and collecting dues from unionized, Owens says it becomes much more difficult for her to keep an updated list of the employees represented under the union. And that, in turn, squelches her ability to provide unionized workers with union support.

"A lot of people don't even know OPB has a union," Owens says. "We're working hard to get a contract and keep the employees we have."

Workers also allege that they have not received their annual wage increase this year. Owens says union members are currently guaranteed a one percent annual wage increase, which they have not yet seen.

Owens adds that workers are also bargaining for streamlined healthcare costs. The next bargaining session is scheduled for December 16.

OPB's public relations manager, Lauren Elkanich, says the nonprofit is "in the process of negotiating a labor agreement with the SEIU, which represents a segment of OPB's employee base."

"SEIU has represented a portion of OPB's workforce for decades, dating back to when OPB was owned and operated by the State of Oregon," Elkanich says. "OPB is committed to maintaining a work environment of mutual respect and dignity, and respects the negotiation process. We have a long history of successful union negotiations, and we believe an agreement will be reached."

Update, Dec. 9, 4 pm:

SEIU political strategist Jay Parasco tells WW that there is currently nothing in the union's contract with OPB that requires the company to give unionized employees a one percent annual increase.

That means there would be no breach of contract if management does not increase wages by December 31.

Parasco says the original release, which was sent by "sub local" OPB staff and not the local 503 communications office, was inaccurate.

Owens, OPB's union president, says the union hopes a wage increase is included in the contract it is bargaining over currently.

OPB management declined to comment on wage negotiations.