Columbia-Pacific Building Trades asks unions to join Metro Alliance group

The Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council (CPBCTC) is calling on affiliates to participate in the founding assembly of the Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good, Thursday, May 23, at 7 p.m. at the Oregon Convention Center. About 1,400 people are expected to attend.

The citizens organization is comprised of 35 religious, labor, environmental and community groups concerned about such issues as affordable housing, health care access, public education, the environment, family-wage jobs and bringing power back to the people. It is an expansion of the former Portland Organizing Project and is an affiliate of the Industrial Areas Foundation.

"It's crucial that we create a statewide non-partisan presence because so many of our issues health care, housing and public school support are rooted in Salem decisionmaking," said Ed Blackburn of Havurah Shalom Synagogue in Northwest Portland.

Ordinary people aren't at the table helping make strategic decisions that affect the lives of all Oregonians. A "power analysis" of Oregon conducted by the group concludes that since 1994 most of the major economic players are out-of-state or out-of-country. "In terms of fundamental patterns of decision-making, Oregon is a colony," the report said.

"We're a nation of strangers. We don't know each other. We stereotype one another and we're getting creamed in terms of power by the big fellows downtown," Alliance staff member Richard Harmon told delegates at the May 7 meeting of the CPBCTC.

One of the goals of the Alliance is to bridge that individualism into a structure that helps bring the power back to the rank-and-file.

"Maintaining solidarity is not just an issue for organized labor, but among school systems and religion, as well," Harmon said.

Thus far, labor's caucus in the Alliance consists of the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council, Cement Masons Local 555, Service Employees Oregon State Council, Sheet Metal Workers Local 16, and the East Multnomah County Uniserv Council, an affiliate of the Oregon Education Association. More union locals are being sought.

"We've spent four years doubling our membership, training hundreds of leaders and we're now ready to move into the public arena," said Co-Chair Reverend Solveig Nilsen-Goodin, pastor of King of Kings Lutheran Church in Milwaukie.

One of the first steps the labor caucus is taking is outreach to The Vestas Group, a windmill manufacturing firm from Denmark that announced earlier this year that it was relocating to Portland, bringing with it thousands of new jobs.

In a letter to Vestas Group co-signed by Reverend Terry Moe of the Alliance; Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO; Bob Petroff, directing business representative of Machinists District Lodge 24; and Wally Mehrens, executive secretary-treasurer of the CPBCTC, Metropolitan Alliance for Common Good welcomed the company to the com- munity and invited representatives to attend the May 23 gathering. The Alliance also asked for a meeting to explore construction of its new facility, neutrality regarding union organizing and corporate citizenship. Members of construction union locals interested in attending the founding meeting should contact Mehrens at 503-774-0546.

For more information about the Alliance for Common Good, call Mark Kirchmeier at 503-286-3776.

May 17, 2002 issue

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