Oregon AFL-CIO embarks on Labor 2000 campaign
SALEM - Oregon has been targeted as a priority state by the national AFL-CIO as the Labor 2000 political season unfolds.
In addition to the presidential election, stakes are high in congressional races, state legislative campaigns, and on ballot measures, with more than 160 initiatives filed. Not all of those initiatives will make it to the ballot, but union officials expect at least two dozen will - including a couple of anti-union measures sponsored by Bill Sizemore, director of Oregon Taxpayers United.
The premise behind Labor 2000, according to national AFL-CIO Political Director Steve Rosenthal, is to use labor's ability to mobilize its members - primarily through one-on-one communications at work - to fend off attacks on their pocketbooks and their voice in the political arena.
Using that one-on-one method of outreach (as well as other methods), the Oregon AFL-CIO's goal is to help local unions register to vote half of the nearly 70,000 unregistered union members and their voting-age family members and then to get 80 percent of those union household voters to mail in their ballots in November.
"If we do that, we will comprise one of every four votes cast statewide in the general election," said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt. "That's a very powerful voice."
On Feb. 26, some affiliates of the state labor federation met in Salem for a first-ever "Political Issues Conference" in which they reviewed, discussed and prioritized political issues affecting working families.
Recommendations from the conference will be forwarded to the Oregon AFL-CIO's Committee on Political Education (COPE) meeting Thursday, March 9, in Salem. COPE delegates also will make endorsement recommendations for the May primary election.
Among the top-ranking issues of concern are Sizemore's "paycheck deception" initiatives - one of which has already been submitted to the secretary of state with 111,799 signatures. Sizemore's "windfall for the rich" initiative, which would make federal income taxes fully deductible on state tax returns is another top priority, as is a Home Health Care initiative that would create a commission to oversee and ensure quality home care services for the elderly and disabled.
Next on the priority list are opposition to dam breaching and support for dredging the Columbia River; expansion of workers' compensation to cover more injuries; prohibiting new exemptions in state minimum wage laws, and adding a cost-of-living-adjustment to the wage; campaign finance reforms; a patients' bill of rights for health care; establishing labor standard requirements for certain state vendor contracts, and involvement in workforce development.
Co-chairs of the Labor 2000 political program are Nesbitt and Bob Shiprack, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, along with the national AFL-CIO.
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