Nesbitt, Witt announce slate for top posts in AFL-CIO

SALEM - Saying he will work to make organized labor a united and powerful political force, Tim Nesbitt, executive director of the Service Employees International Union's (SEIU) Oregon State Council, announced his candidacy for president of the Oregon AFL-CIO.

Nesbitt will run on a slate with Secretary-Treasurer Brad Witt, who is seeking re-election.

Irv Fletcher, who has presided over the state labor federation for nearly 18 years, is retiring in September. The election will take place at the state labor federation's convention in North Bend Sept. 14.

Joe Devlaeminck, president of Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, announced his candidacy for president in January.

"There's only one way to counter the anti-worker forces in Oregon - by making organized labor a united and powerful force at the ballot box," Nesbitt said. "If elected, that will be my first and foremost priority."

"Oregon labor got off to a good start at strengthening our political program in 1998," Nesbitt said. "We defeated Measure 59 (Bill Sizemore's 'paycheck deception' initiative) and Measure 64 (the clear-cut ban), and we won passage of our own Measures 62 (Open and Fair Elections Act) and 63 (Defense of Democracy Act). But, Sizemore is filing initiatives at the rate of one a week right now. Four of them are near-attempts to silence workers' voices in the political arena.

"And the state's largest business lobby, Associated Oregon Industries, just announced the creation of a new $2 million political organizing campaign for next year's elections.

"We in the Oregon AFL-CIO will need to redouble our efforts in membership education, voter registration and turnout both to get out our own issues and messages for working families to the voters and to defeat anti-worker initiatives and candidates."

"Tim Nesbitt was instrumental in developing the strategy that led to the creation and passage of Ballot Measures 62 and 63," said Alice Dale, executive director of Oregon Public Employees Union (OPEU), Local 503 of the SEIU. "He helped beat Bill Sizemore in 1998. He's a proven coalition builder; he knows how to bring people together. He has all the skills and experience we need to strengthen our political program for the challenges we face in 2000."

Nesbitt served as assistant executive director of OPEU from 1989 to 1996. In 1997, he took the top job at SEIU's State Council, which coordinates political action for the three SEIU locals in Oregon - OPEU, Service Employees Local 49 and School Employees Local 140.

"Nesbitt has been a real leader on the tax reform issues in a way that unites public and private sector workers," said Mike Sullivan, chair of the Legislative Education Committee of the United Steelworkers Local 8378 in McMinnville. "He took the Tax Justice Coalition's proposal for raising the corporate income tax to Sizemore's tax conference and beat Sizemore at his own game in front of his own crowd."

Brad Witt has been the secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO for the past 7-1/2 years. In that capacity he is the chief financial officer of the federation, which includes 330 local union and state, district and central labor councils.

Witt is the Oregon AFL-CIO's lead lobbyist at the Capitol on workers' compensation, health and safety, and workforce and economic development. He is a member of the State Board of Forestry and the employee representative on the executive board of the Oregon Forest Resources Institute. He served in a variety of staff capacities at the national AFL-CIO, the Western Council of Industrial Workers (an affiliate of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters and Joiners) and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 prior to being elected to his current position in 1991. "Brad Witt is a smart, skilled and seasoned advocate for Oregon's workers," said Mike Draper, international vice president of the Carpenters Union. "Whether it's workers' comp or timber supply, Brad knows the issues and he's been there for us time and time again." "Brad complements my background and experience perfectly," said Nesbitt. "He's done great work on natural resource issues and he has mastered the intricacies of our workers' comp, unemployment and job training programs. "His expertise in these areas is irreplaceable. I'm extremely pleased we'll be running together as a team. We look forward to leading together to build a bigger and stronger labor movement in Oregon." Nesbitt and Witt have organized a campaign committee, known as the Stronger Together Committee, which can be reached at PO Box 2092, Salem, Oregon 97308.

March 19, 1999 issue

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