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Oregon environmental group embraces organized labor in its office
Alex P Brown, Executive Director, Bark, (503) 331-0374
Jeanette Turner, President, Communication Workers of America Local 7901, (503) 238-6666
Justice Hager, Field Manager, Bark (503) 839-2245
[Portland, OR – January 20, 2017]
Leaders from the labor union Communications Workers of America and Bark, the local watchdog organization protecting Mt. Hood National Forest, have announced that Bark’s canvassing staff joined CWA Local 7901 union. Bark’s Board of Directors and Executive Director have voluntarily recognized the union.
Communications Workers of America Local 7901 represents over 1,000 members who work in private and public union sectors. The Local bargains contracts for its members with over thirteen companies, including Century Link, Jobs with Justice, KBOO Radio, and Free Geek.
Alex P Brown, executive director of Bark, explains the decision to embrace employees’ decision to unionize, “Anti-environment and anti-labor rhetoric is on the rise in Washington D.C., so the timing feels right. We are proud to support staff who do such important work for the forests we all love and it feels momentous to join with organized labor right now.”
“It’s refreshing to work with an environmental non-profit that supports labor movements when so many larger organizations that employ canvassers actively fight against unionizing efforts,” says Jeanette Turner, CWA president. “Educating the public about the benefits of protecting our forests is a mission we wholeheartedly support. Our job at CWA is to help workers meet their needs so that they can focus on doing the work they care about. I believe that the Bark canvassers will enrich our union.”
Canvassers hope that unionization will not only raise the industry standard for canvassers throughout the Portland Metro Area but also help to bridge the gap between environmental and social justice issues within the larger conservation movement. "Bark's long-term vision calls for ending oppression in all levels of its work," says Darby, one of Bark's canvassers, "I feel unionizing marks a shift in how we are doing this. I am excited to see how a more active integration of the canvass can help fulfill this mission."
Bark canvassers have been knocking on doors since 2003, enacting their first amendment rights to perform a unique community service across Portland and other Mt. Hood gateway communities like Hood River and Sandy. Whether going door-to-door, or posted at street corners and farmers’ markets, the canvass engages the community on how our public forests and water are being managed. They build people power by connecting those moved to take action with vast regional networks of organizers, advocates, and activists. Canvassers also encourage community members to enjoy free monthly hikes in Mt. Hood National Forest and ecology classes in Portland.
Throughout the last 10 years Bark has successfully protected Mt. Hood National Forest from dozens of proposals to log and develop forests that provide drinking water to Oregonians and habitat for wildlife. Bark was key in helping the Forest Service adopt a new plan for managing off-road vehicles in 2010 and has been a strong partner in decommissioning old logging roads to restore watersheds. All of this has been achieved through educating and empowering the community and mobilizing hundreds of grassroots supporters. “Canvassers win campaigns,” states Alex Henriquez, field manager for Bark's street canvass.
“Even if it’s 100 degrees, or pouring rain, we’re out there,” says Judy Phillips, a Bark canvasser. “Canvassing always involves emotional labor and physical exertion,” adds Oren DeQuasie, another street canvasser. Grassroots fundraising for non-profits as a career is notoriously challenging. Even so, Bark canvassers manager to educate over 30,000 Oregonians about issues affecting Mt. Hood National Forest every year, and are responsible for generating over 60% of Bark’s annual revenue.
Bark and CWA Local 7901 members are currently working on their first collective bargaining agreement. Meanwhile, Bark plans to hire additional canvassers in 2017 to increase its reach in Multnomah, Clackamas, and Hood River counties. Its goal is to have over 50,000 face-to-face conversations with Oregonians about the importance of protecting public forests.
Bark's mission is to transform Mt. Hood National Forest into a place where natural processes prevail, where wildlife thrives and where local communities have a social, cultural, and economic investment in its restoration and preservation. Bark has 5,000 donating supporters and 41,000 subscribers to its bi-weekly email and, thanks to its canvassers, those numbers are growing.
Communication Workers of America Local 7901 represents over 1,000 members who work in private and public union sectors. The Local bargains contracts for its members with over 13 companies in the telecommunications, printing & publishing, and Portland-area non-profit organizations Jobs with Justice, KBOO Radio, and Free Geek