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State's Largest Public Employee Union Adds 7,500 Members

Until this week, the state's two largest public employee unions, the Oregon Education Association and Service Employees International Union Local 503, each represented about 47,000 public employees.

But SEIU Local 503 vaulted ahead of the teachers' union with the announcement today that it will now represent about 7,500 people who provide support to developmentally disabled Oregonians (some also serve mentally ill Oregonians, and others serve medically fragile children). The newly unionized workers are paid through the Oregon Health Plan, as the state's Medicaid program is known.

"The decision by more than 7,500 Oregon support service providers for people with developmental disabilities to bargain collectively as members of SEIU Local 503 represents the largest number of new members to join a single union in the state since 10,000 home care providers for seniors and people with physical disabilities joined SEIU Local 503 in 2001," SEIU spokesman Ed Hershey said in a statement.