Fueling the debate: Oregon labor union wants to ban self-serve gas in 2024

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Only a few weeks after Oregonians were allowed to start pumping their own gas across state, one of Oregon’s largest labor unions is working to ban the practice.

United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555 filed an initiative petition on Wednesday, Oct. 25, looking to reinstate the ban of self-serve gas in Oregon, arguing gas station attendants are being negatively impacted by the law.

The local branch of UFCW represents grocery workers, as well as retail, manufacturing and healthcare workers in Oregon, Washington, and Idaho. Several Oregon grocery stores, such as Fred Meyer, Safeway and Albertsons operate gas stations in the state.

Oregon has long been one of the few states which required attendants pump gas instead of drivers, but laws have loosened in the last several years, with drivers in some rural parts of Oregon allowed to pump their own gas. That law went statewide in August.

UFCW communications coordinator Miles Eshaia says gas station attendants are already being left high and dry. Positions at gas stations go unfilled when workers leave, as gas station owners look to cut costs by not hiring new employees to replace them.

“The important thing to remember about self-service gas is that it’s always been a grift,” Eshaia told Pamplin Media Group. “There has never been anything convenient about it for drivers, but it is a way to eliminate jobs. They don’t want to pay people to do work.”

Under the new law, gas stations are required to have both self-serve and assistance options for drivers, but Eshaia said many gas stations are now left understaffed. That hurts drivers, particularly people with disabilities and drivers who may feel unsafe getting out of their cars after dark.

Eshaia said UFCW had issues with the bill when lawmakers were writing it, but said the law was fast-tracked into being with little opportunity for public pushback.

“Something passed that shouldn’t have,” Eshaia said, “but the nice thing about Oregon is that we have the initiative petition process to let voters decide whether they like it or not.”

It’s too early in the process for UFCW to begin collecting signatures to place the initiative on a ballot, but voters could decide as early as November 2024 whether they want to continue pumping their own gas, or reverse course.

“You have to start somewhere,” Eshaia said. “Now 49 states have fallen to this grift that’s been happening for 60 years. Come on. Pay people to do the work. It’s that simple.”

KOIN News 6, a news partner of the Pamplin Media Group, contributed to this report. Their full story can be found at koin.com.

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