What retirement means to Oregon families

Everice Moro’s story is just one example of how union members stood together to ensure hard-working Oregonians have retirement security.

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The Oregon Labor Candidate School held on Saturday, June 15, 2013.  (photo by Casey Campbell / Oregon Nurses Association)

Everice Brolliar Moro

People who work hard their entire lives deserve a chance to retire. That’s a fundamental value that we’ve all been working towards for decades. In the last couple weeks, we’ve seen that value protected by the Oregon Supreme Court when they rejected the Legislature’s attempts to roll back promises made to Oregon’s retirees.

Keeping food on your table and a roof over your head after you’ve retired is a big problem many Oregonians face, and by working together, union members were able to protect retirements for tens of thousands.

So what does that retirement mean for the average Oregonian? We thought we should share that story — and we start with Everice Moro, the lead plaintiff on the Supreme Court case, who chose to work with union members across the state to protect retirements. Everice’s story is a reminder that Oregon’s funding shortfalls are systematic, and part of our duty is to stand together for working people to make sure that hard working Oregonians have a fair shot at a good life.

Here’s Everice’s story. She’s unique (there’s no one quite like Everice) — but there are tens of thousands more who have the same story of hard work and sacrifice. Thanks Everice, for standing up for retired Oregonians!

I spent most of my adult life working with children, students, and people with disabilities in both public and private agencies. It wasn’t a lucrative life, but I loved my work and I feel like I made a real difference in the lives of the kids and families I worked with. I started my career at a daycare, earning $1.50 an hour working a split shift, and spent time as a childcare worker and in Head Start before making my way to public schools as a classified employee.

During my 30-year career as a classified employee at the Estacada School District, I saw my employment threatened at every turn. In the 1980s, our rural community decided they didn’t want to fund education. Our school district closed twice, and it was the only time I ever collected unemployment insurance. These days, closures like those are called furloughs, and employees are unable to collect unemployment. From Superintendents who wanted to contract out all classified employees, to business managers who prioritized their bottom lines over their employees’ well being — some were against paid sick leave, and others used loopholes to avoid paying benefits — our livelihood was threatened. On top of that, there is no unemployment insurance for school district employees during school breaks, so if you can’t find a summer or winter break job, you might be in real financial trouble.

I got involved in my union because my job and livelihood were threatened. My role in the Oregon School Employees Association gave me the opportunity to speak up when school districts tried to disrupt our community. I spoke out against the contracting out of classified employees, pointing out to the school board that classified employees who lived in our tiny town wouldn’t be able to shop in our local businesses if jobs were cut or wages were further reduced. At the urging of fellow employees, I evolved as a leader in my chapter of OSEA.

Without OSEA organizing our voices, we would not have been able to stand up against the efforts to take away a living wage in one of the most important jobs in our community: preparing our children for success.

Through some tough years, I stayed committed, partially because I knew that in retirement I would have the security to take care of myself. Then, after 30 years of hard work when I was two years into my retirement, some people decided that the promises we built our lives on were just too expensive. Our lives became a bargaining chip when the state lacked the revenue it needed to support basic services.

My story is not unusual. I’ve worked alongside many people passionate about giving Oregon’s students the best education they can get — people who have stayed committed to that goal despite the hardships we’ve faced. These same people had the retirements they counted on taken from them, and were left without security in their old age. Now, after standing together to fight this unconstitutional legislation, we’ve won back that security for so many.

Oregonians at every level have been witness to the failure of Oregon to fund basic services and to adequately increase revenues to fund important services. By raising the wages of workers, giving families the security of paid sick leave so they can take care of their families, ensuring retirement security for everyone, and restructuring the tax system by making corporations pay their fair share, we can protect the health and security of workers in Oregon and we can build an economy that works for all of us.

Everice Brolliar Moro

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