Union Seeks to Turn Back the Clock on Self-Serve Gas in Oregon, But Is It Really What the Public Wants?

pumping gas oregon

For many Oregonians, the recent freedom to pump their own gas has been a breath of fresh air. It's hard to deny the convenience of pulling up to a pump, handling things independently, and heading on one's way. However, the state's largest union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, seems intent on pulling us back to the old ways, advocating for the return of mandatory attendants at gas pumps. Their stance seems at odds with the newfound autonomy many of us, including myself, have come to enjoy.

Historically, Oregon had a unique position on self-serve gas, being one of just two states, alongside New Jersey, that mandated attendants for refueling. But times have changed, and the recent House Bill 2426 allowed gas stations to offer both self-serve and full-service options. Many stations, embracing the new era, opted for this mixed model, allowing customers a choice—a principle that many believe should be at the heart of consumer experiences.

Michael Selvaggio, the political director for UFCW Local 555, claims the shift to self-service hasn't benefited Oregonians. From my own experience and personal bias, I beg to differ. The ability to pump gas at my own pace, without waiting for an attendant, has been liberating. This wait can be especially frustrating when one attendant is attempting to pump gas for multiple customers visiting the station. And while Selvaggio points to the profits of oil companies, it's hard to ignore the broader benefits: increased efficiency, reduced wait times, and giving the consumer a choice.

Another intriguing dimension to this narrative is the union's intertwined interests with another bill—this one concerning the unionization of cannabis workers. Their claim? They held off on opposing the gas bill because of a promise from legislative leaders about advancing the cannabis worker's bill. This interplay between the two bills, and the resultant tension, underscores the intricate dance of politics.

Safety and accessibility concerns have been cited by the union, with spokesman Miles Eshaia noting the potential for human errors at self-service stations. However, as someone who enjoys pumping their own gas, I can't help but think that with proper guidance and maybe a bit more public awareness, these issues could be mitigated.

In a telling statistic from a DHM poll conducted in January 2021, 63% of Oregonians favored self-service gas stations. Clearly, the sentiment for self-service is not a mere personal bias but resonates with a majority of the state's residents.

If the UFCW Local 555 manages to gather the 117,173 valid signatures required by July, the topic will be up for a public vote in November 2024. And then, Oregonians will have a chance to voice whether they prefer the autonomy of self-service or a return to the old ways. For fans of self-service like myself, the upcoming months will undoubtedly be ones to watch.