14 Jul 2021 PCUN Political Agenda
PCUN values the ability of workers to take action against exploitation and all its effects. Through our political agenda, we fight to strengthen workers’ rights, for fair wages, and press for economic security for our families. We present our 2021 political agenda and the results we have at the moment. We just finished the legislative session (February-June) where we had good victories. We have several proposals that will not become law this year, and we will re-introduce them in February 2022.
2021 PCUN Political Agenda
VICTORIA: HB 2819: Include people with ITIN numbers in the Earned Income Tax Credit (EITC)
Currently, people without social security cannot claim the “Earned Income Tax Credit” when filing their taxes. HB 2819 allows all eligible workers to claim this credit regardless of how they file their taxes.
This proposal was successfully approved in the 2021 legislative session. The law will take effect in January 2022. This means that if you have an ITIN number, you will be able to claim the Earned Income Tax Credit when you do your taxes.
This proposal was led by PCUN and Causa, with the support of more than 50 organizations throughout the state. We thank our sponsors very much: Representative Pham, Campos, Valderrama, and many more!
VICTORIA: HB 3073: Child Care
Increase access to the state’s program called “Work-Related Child Care” that helps eligible low-income families pay for child care while they are working. This proposal became law and will take effect in January 2022.
VICTORIA: Energy Campaign
A. HB 2842: Healthy Homes
54% of Oregonians live in homes built before 1978.
Low-income families are most at risk because living in inefficient homes experience sick days and hospital visits caused by mold, cold, and the inability to shelter from poor outdoor air quality (wildfire smoke).
A Healthy Homes Program and a Healthy Homes Repair Fund within the Oregon Health Authority (OHA)
B. HB 2475: Affordable Energy
During the pandemic, Oregonians struggle to make ends meet and spend more time at home. The energy load, that is, the part of someone’s income that is used for energy bills, increases as people use more energy and sources of income disappear.
Tariff/program structures to reduce energy burden
C. HB 2021: 100% Clean Energy
Climate change – fossil fuels are negatively affecting our earth.
Establishes requirements for utilities to obtain a certain amount of energy from sources that benefit the community, such as solar and storage projects
Pass workplace regulations to protect workers from contagious diseases.
The COVID-19 emergency has highlighted the risks that any infectious disease, particularly one that is transmitted through the air, can create for a wide variety of workplaces. As a result of the immediate and long-term risks highlighted by the current occupational and public health crisis, advocates lobbied Oregon OSHA to pass a temporary infectious rule, which would be replaced by a permanent infectious disease rule.
HB 2205 Just Enforcement
All Oregon workers have job protections that protect them in the workplace. These include but are not limited to: Increasing the minimum wage, protection against discrimination, and having paid sick days. However, we know that there are still employers who do not respect labor laws. Workers are the ones who suffer the most, going through abuses in the workplace such as wage theft, or suffering discrimination.
In 2021, we filed HB 2205 in the Oregon Legislature to address this issue and enforce existing Oregon labor laws.
HB 2205 proposed creating a system in Oregon for workers who experience labor abuse to sue their employer, with the help of organizations like PCUN. HB 2205 would also have increased funding for agencies OR OSHA and BOLI to have more investigative staff.
Unfortunately, we receive a lot of opposition from employers and certain legislators. Although we received an audience, the proposal did not advance to the next round in April 2021
HB 2205 is a powerful tool for workers and gives them more power to enforce their employment rights. The work is not over.
*In February 2022, we again presented this proposal in the short legislative session.*
HB 2358: Access to paid overtime at work for farmers (overtime)
In 1938, President Roosevelt excluded farm workers from overtime pay on the job (known as overtime). At that time, the majority of the peasants were African-American and black. Now most of them are Latine. Excluding peasants from overtime pay was unfair in 1938, it is still unfair now.
In this legislative session, we introduced House Bill 2358 to end this racial and labor injustice. Bill 2358 would extend overtime to farm workers in Oregon after 40 hours in the workplace. We had two hearings where 171 farmers and allies gave testimony in support of the proposal.
The proposal was successfully approved by the rules committee and was sent to another committee. Unfortunately, Oregon legislators refused to pass House Bill 2358, placing more importance on ranchers’ concerns. Clearly, work to advance farmworker rights in Oregon is far from done.
*In February 2022, we will re-introduce this proposal again and work hard to pass it in the short legislative session.*
Workplace protections against fire smoke and extreme heat
Our communities feel the effects of warmer weather more. In March 2020, Governor Kate Brown gave an executive order with goals to reduce pollution. That is why we will continue to fight for a Climate Action program that invests money in our communities that are most affected by climate change.