HASSO HERING

A perspective from Oregon’s mid-Willamette Valley

Legislation, baking, overtime and crackers

Written February 15th, 2022 by Hasso Hering

The state Capitol grounds on a spring day a few years ago.

A little bill pending in the Oregon legislature caught my eye on Tuesday, not because it was particularly weird but because Democrats in the Senate sent out a press release about it. This is a story about that, and it leads to crackers at the end.

The bill is SB 1513, which has cleared the Senate on a vote of 24-2. “Senate Democrats protect bakery workers from unfair work practices,” their press release was headlined. (Except for Girod and Linthicum, the minority Republicans did too, but the Ds didn’t mention that.)

The bill now is in the House for consideration. It says that employers commit an unfair labor practice if they discipline or fire workers who refuse to work an overtime shift without at least five days advance notice of when overtime will be required.

What kind of workers? The bill applies to any “employee who is employed in a manufacturing establishment that is classified within the North American Industry Classification System under code 3118.”

That seems unnecessarily obscure, doesn’t it? When you look it up, you find that the code refers to commercial bakeries, the makers of bread and crackers and so forth, including tortillas.

So why not say that in the bill? The Oregon constitution requires that all laws and resolutions “be plainly worded, avoiding as far as practicable the use of technical terms.” If we interpret that strictly, Senate Bill 1513 will be unconstitutional when it becomes law because it isn’t worded plainly.

So why is this bill limited to bakeries and tortilla makers? Because it’s apparently prompted by circumstances at a Portland baking plant.

In written testimony, Portland Local 17 of the Professional and Technical Employees says the bill would “address the discipline system for refusing forced overtime that our union siblings are experiencing in NE Portland  and undoubtedly across the industry.”

The union refers to Bakers Union Local 364, at the Portland Nabisco plant, where it says refusing to work overtime on short notice results in one discipline point.

“Routinely, the forced overtime ask comes only 10 or 15 minutes before they clock out of their regular 8 hours shift or even as they are leaving for the day,” Local 17 says. “When a worker receives 8 discipline points they are suspended pending termination… Workers should not have to make a choice between whether they can pick up their kids or get a discipline point for refusing an overtime shift.”

Indeed no one should face such a choice. But should what may happen at one factory warrant a law that covers all bakeries, large and small?

Suppose a baker with two employees takes on a big project for an event and then one of her workers falls ill and has to go home. Shouldn’t that baker be able to expect the remaining employee to work a little overtime to help get the job done, especially if Covid has cut into the business and this job represents a big break?

Chances are this situation would not even come up in a small operation where owners and employees typically work together.

At Nabisco in Portland, Local 364 of the bakers’ union went on strike last year because workers feared the company, Mondelez International, was planning to shift production to Mexico. But I’m happy to report that the Ritz crackers I’m munching have the code AH on the box, and according to an online source, that’s the code for the Portland plant. (hh)





8 responses to “Legislation, baking, overtime and crackers”

  1. Mason Jarr says:

    Just to be clear, this Bill does not eliminate mandatory overtime. The only question this bill answers is: How last minute should a notification be?

    5 minutes seems overly submissive to the corporate bosses.

    5 days seems overly submissive to the union bosses.

    You’d think a reasonable compromise of 1-2 days (24-48 hours) could be reached between the industry and the union without the involvement of meddlesome politicians & bureaucrats.

    An unreasonable law just puts the bakery industry in the fast lane to Mexico.

    • Bob Woods says:

      Hasso mentions that the bakery in Portland has a union contract. Overtime requirements and compensation are very likely spelled out in the contract.

      • Mason Jarr says:

        And according to numerous newspaper articles, this law comes after a successful strike last fall where a new contract was signed with agreements made on overtime pay and extended shifts.

        But no agreement was made on how much overtime notification is required.

        So the union did what they do best when they can’t get what they want in a contract – leverage their political power in Salem.

        The business industry said 2 days was acceptable. The bill imposes 5 days.

        Nobody should be surprised by this union power play and acquiescence by politicians.

        My prediction – in the short term your Oreos and Ritz crackers will probably cost more. In the longer term they may come from south of our porous border.

  2. hj.anony1 says:

    Great photo of spring time past Hasso!

    One must ask..why did (2) GQP members vote now. You named names.
    Love that!

    Are they anti union? Anti worker? Anti Human? Something more nefarious?

    Please follow up soon with said answer.

  3. Bob Woods says:

    Why should anyone who doesn’t want to work more than their standard work week be fired? They’re not slaves. Conditions of employment that are only designed to benefit the employer are one-sided.

    Maybe the employer just needs to figure out what incentives will encourage them to do the overtime. Or they need to hire more employees.

    • Abe Cee says:

      Oh they joys of living and working in an employment at will state.

      I don’t believe anyone is forcing the employees to stay employees. They are free to leave and work elsewhere if they don’t like the conditions. It’s not like there are not lots of jobs out there available to choose from.

  4. John Hartman says:

    This 15-minute warning for overtime smacks of a Management problem, not an employee problem. Fairly typical of most business management.

    • centrist says:

      JH
      I can’t accept “typical. ”
      A high frequency of short-notice conversations about overtime is a symptom of a deeper problem. Giving discipline for refusing overtime aggravates the condition.
      It’s quite possible that there aren’t enough employees to meet production targets. That is a management issue.

 

 
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