Hansen succeeds Cook as president of Letter Carriers Portland Branch 82

Leadership of Portland-based Branch 82 of the National Association of Letter Carriers (NALC) is changing hands as L.C. Hansen, 49, succeeds Jim Cook , 49, as president.

Cook did not seek re-election in December.

Hansen said she plans to continue the chapter's focus on occupational safety, its fight against rigid management, and its involvement in the ongoing national battle against privatization of the Postal Service.

NALC differs in important ways from most AFL-CIO unions. Its 312,000 members work for a single employer - the U.S. Postal Service. The union was founded in 1889, but didn't gain the right to bargain collectively over wages, hours and working conditions until 1970. Postal workers (like other federal employees) are forbidden to strike; disputes are resolved by arbitration.

In addition, the Postal Service by law is an "open shop," meaning that dues and membership are voluntary though the union must represent all employees. Despite this, 90 percent of the letter carriers in Branch 82's jurisdiction belong, a figure similar to the national ratio.

Branch 82 covers the greater Portland metropolitan area, from St. Helens to Troutdale to McMinnville, and has approximately 1,800 members, including 350 retirees, plus an auxiliary chapter.

Hansen wants to change the public perception of the Postal Service from a "bastardized public-private hybrid with the downside features of each," to a "constitutionally-mandated civil service that holds the country together through one large network and fulfills a democratic need."

Hansen joined the Postal Service at a time when there were very few women letter carriers. Though she was not the first female letter carrier locally, her 1981 election to the Executive Board made her the first woman in Branch 82's elected leadership. In January, she left her job as letter carrier in northwest Portland's Pearl District to assume the full-time job of Branch 82 president.

She is a charter member of the recently-founded Oregon chapter of Pride At Work, an AFL-CIO constituency group that represents gays and lesbians.

In her free time, she serves as an elected member of the board of KBOO, a non-commercial station in Portland where she sometimes hosts a radio show featuring folk music. Hansen said since assuming her new full-time job at Branch 82, she is having to scale back other commitments.

Cook, whom Hansen considers a mentor and a friend, started working for the Postal Service in 1973, and moved to Portland in 1977. In 1982, he led Branch 82 to affiliate with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) and the Oregon AFL-CIO. He was Branch 82 president from 1988 to 1993 and from 1995 to 2001. In 1994, he won a third of the vote in a campaign for safety director of the national union, and in 1999 he was a candidate for NOLC president. He will continue to serve Branch 82 as community outreach officer, and as a NOLC delegate and a member of the NOLC Executive Board.

Cook says he stepped down to give himself greater freedom to be an activist for labor rights and other causes. As president, he said, his first responsibility had to be to the members of Branch 82. He will also continue to be active in the Pacific Northwest Labor History Association and in General Strike, a music group that sings labor songs at picnics, picketlines and rallies.

March 15, 2002 issue

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