Karen Williams, OR

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Karen Williams_For AWT websiteAfter seven years working as an environmental geologist in the private sector, I went to work at the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) because I wanted to have a broader effect on environmental restoration and benefit my community.

Now, as a Water Quality Analyst, I work with local governments and other stakeholders to identify, monitor, and reduce pollution to bodies of water in order to increase their quality for swimming and fishing. I am in charge of assessing and quantifying the amount of pollution that has entered a lake or river, and I measure it over time to track the progress we make in reducing pollution and restoring water quality.

My colleagues and I are passionate about our service. Reducing pollution and improving our public bodies of water benefits the whole community, and provides places where children can learn to swim and families can spend a weekend. My colleagues and I have intentionally made the decision to put our skills and education to use for the benefit of public health and the environment we care about as Oregonians.

But this job requires high standards of training and education, and that is what makes my union so important, and being a member of AFSCME means that I can focus on doing my job and know that the union is negotiating on my behalf for the important trainings, safety measures, and good wages and benefits that help attract a highly skilled workforce.

My union also allows my coworkers and me to maintain our voice on the job. When we come together to negotiate, it enables us to speak up for better training, safety standards, and best practices. These, in turn, allow us to do our work properly and more efficiently, benefitting the environment and everyone in our state.

I am concerned about Friedrichs v. CTA because working people have a right to negotiate together – and frequently do so to the benefit of their communities. Taking away that voice would affect not just me, but public service workers like firefighters and teachers as well.

Without a voice to speak up at work, it becomes harder to build our skills and ensure technical integrity in our decisions. It makes it harder to build a positive and efficient work environment. And without these benefits, dedicated Oregonians, especially with advanced degrees and technical expertise, will be less likely to want to serve the public. Our environment deserves the best stewards we can find. This case targets working people and our rights but, by targeting the professionals who guarantee water quality and more, also threatens the environmental protection we all rely on.