Winter School 2015: Recap

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A record setting 94 AFT-Oregon local leaders traveled to Oregon’s coast for a weekend of training, team building, and worker empowerment at AFT-Oregon’s Winter School Jan. 23-25.

The weekend was unofficially kicked off with an Executive Council meeting Friday afternoon. Board members took this opportunity to continue discussion of AFT-Oregon’s plans for 2015.

The meeting began with a celebration of the successful GTFF Local 3544 strike. For two weeks in December University of Oregon Graduate Teaching Fellows were on strike, battling the: wind, rain, and sometimes freezing temperatures, fighting for a fair contract and paid leave. More than 500 GTFs and their supporters participated in the strike action.

Great job, GTFF Local 3544!


GTF's and their supporters strike. Photo by Justin Buchanan

The Executive Board also discussed the upcoming legislative session. Some of AFT-Oregon’s top priorities this year will be to raise the minimum wage, secure better health care, securing paid sick days, and to strengthen retirement security. More info on these goals will be reported soon.

“It was a highly productive board meeting,” AFT-Oregon President David Rives said. “It was wonderful to see everyone again and to begin making serious progress on our 2015 goals.”

New Communications Coordinator Justin Buchanan was introduced, as well as interim lobbyists George Okulitch and Regan Gray.

As the Executive Council met Friday afternoon, local leaders began gathering at the Hallmark Resort for registration at 6 p.m. Once leaders were registered, they gathered in the ballroom and connected with other attendees from across the state while enjoying hors d’oeuvres.

President Rives officially kicked off Winter School by welcoming everyone to Newport and thanking them for their dedication to their locals.

President Rives spoke about the monumental achievements of the GTFF strike, work that has been done in Salem and how it will carry into 2015.

“We ended 2014 with many great achievements,” President Rives said. “With your help and passion we’ll make 2015 a great year for labor.”


AFT-Oregon President David Rives welcomes everyone to Winter School. Photo by Justin Buchanan

After President Rives spoke he introduced Anne McDonnell, a Fight for $15 Now representative.

McDonnell informed the crowd of the importance of raising the minimum wage to $15 an hour across the nation.

McDonnell explained more than 400,000 Oregonians are currently in low-wage jobs, which is about 25 percent of the workforce. Because of this high number of low wage earners, taxpayers subsidize corporations about $1.7 billion a year.

“No one who works should live in poverty,” McDonnell said. “We need a $15 minimum wage now.”

After McDonnell spoke, Laurie Trieger, Regional Outreach Director from Family Forward Oregon took to the podium.

Trieger detailed their main goals this upcoming session. Like AFT-Oregon, their goals are to raise the minimum wage, secure paid sick days, ensure everyone has retirement security, and put a stop to profiling.

President Rives closed the program and wished everyone a goodnight.


Class is in session at Winter School. Photo by Justin Buchanan

Classes kicked off bright and early Saturday morning. Class topics ranged from: communication, financial best practices, running a meeting, bargaining & contract campaigns, issues organizing, power mapping, bullying, and much more.

After the first round of classes, attendees enjoyed lunch and many others took advantage of their free time and weather and went for a stroll on the beach.


Winter School attendees walk up from the beach to return to class. Photo by Justin Buchanan

Classes resumed Saturday afternoon, but only with more sand on the soles of shoes.

After class attendees had free time, but many attendees used this free time as work time. Many different locals hosted meetings and planned ways to effectively bring their new skills back home. 

The weekend was not all work though. Attendees also scurried off to enjoy the city of Newport. The faces of AFT-Oregon could be found in many of the local shops and restaurants.

Classes would resume early Sunday morning and would run until 11:30 a.m.

Before the official closing the Issues Organizing class had a gift to give.

The class put their new skills to work right away and organized a tipping campaign for the wait staff at the Hallmark. From Saturday afternoon until 11:30 a.m. Sunday morning, members of the class gathered tips and thank you notes, ultimately collecting $470 dollars for the wait staff.

“This is a labor to labor action, you all deserve it because you did a wonderful job,” Elaine Carty, Local 5017 OFNHP said.

President Rives took a moment to thank all the instructors, AFT-Oregon staff and all the locals for their hard work over the weekend.

“AFT-Oregon is strong because of leaders like you,” President Rives said.

A big thank you goes out to all of our instructors this weekend: Julie Washington, Amy Bahruth, Channing Cooper and Yonna Carroll of AFT, Local 3209 UAUO Executive Director Dave Cecil, Local 111 PFSP President Belinda Reagan, Local 4671 HCU VP of Bargaining Dean Pfaender, Parliamentarian CJ Inman, Local 2277 PCCFFAP VP of Political Action Jamie Rodriguez, Local 2417 LCCEF Member Chair Marleena Pearson, Local 3209 UAUO Administrative Assistant Kristy Hammond, and David Rives, Janella James, Sarah Sevey, Rodolfo Palma, Debra Mayo-Kelley, Karen Bartholomew, Kristen Fitzpatrick, Julia Trist and Justin Buchanan of AFT-Oregon.

Another big thank you goes out to Leah Leach of AFT-Oregon for coordinating Winter School 2015.

Additionally a big thank you goes out to the Hallmark Hotel and its staff for all their hard work feeding and housing our Winter School attendees.

Finally, thank you to all of wonderful attendees. Because of you, AFT-Oregon is strong!