New leader at HERE Local 9 ambitious to organize Portland

There's a new hand at the helm of Portland's Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees (HERE) Local 9.

Jeff Richardson, 39, has been elected financial secretary-treasurer of the union.

Six other officers were also elected: incumbent President Gloria Gonzalez, Vice President Kit Wong, Executive Board members Sophia Welcer (Oregon Convention Center) and Mike Conklin (Benson Hotel), and trustees Mark Thompson (Hilton Hotel) and John Pullido.

Richardson came to Portland from the international union last March to work for the financially-troubled local, which had been placed in trusteeship. After the clean-up was accomplished, Richardson ran unopposed for the local's top position.

Local 9's jurisdiction covers all of Oregon and southwest Washington, but with just three staff and 1,200 members, it's considered a small HERE local. It represents workers at about 27 shops, including a dozen Portland-area restaurants, two Portland hotels (the Benson and the Hilton) and assorted cafeterias and caterers such as ARAMARK and SkyChefs.

Richardson has ambitions to turn the local around.

"There hasn't been anything organized for a long time," Richardson said. "It's kind of been a black hole."

Local 9 expects to hire a full-time organizer soon, subsidized by the international, which has made organizing a top priority. Organizing efforts will focus on new hotels; one new hotel is currently on the verge of signing a union neutrality agreement, and there are "salts" (underground organizers) at another.

Richardson got his start in HERE as a bartender and union steward in Washington, D.C., Local 25, and eventually took a job with the local, which had been headed by his father, Ron Richardson, since 1965. In 1996 the elder Richardson was appointed executive vice president of the HERE international, and the younger Richardson moved to Phoenix, Ariz., to clean up Local 631, which had been placed in trusteeship.

In 1998, Ron Richardson was elected general vice president of the international union. After three years as co-trustee in Phoenix, Jeff Richardson was called to help Portland's Local 9, which had been placed in trusteeship in September 1997 by the international union for poor financial management.

The election of officers ended the trusteeship and Local 9 was declared autonomous again. It recently re-affiliated with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

October 15, 1999 issue

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