Delegates debate issues at Oregon AFL-CIO convention


CORVALLIS - Delegates to the 47th annual convention of the Oregon AFL-CIO raised the bar for organizing new workers and committed to boosting the participation of union members in elections with a pro-active campaign for working families.

Some 256 delegates from 80 different unions met on the campus of Oregon State University here June 10-11 where they approved resolutions and launched plans to:

* Expand the state labor federation's organizing assistance program, with increased attention to planning and carrying out large campaigns, setting aggressive organizing goals for the next three years, continuing and expanding their annual organizing conferences (July 18 this year), encouraging inter-union assistance in key campaigns, and developing a "Union Summer" program for college students and young people to work on organizing campaigns all of which will be advanced with the help of a full-time organizing coordinator.

* Increase member-to-member communications as part of a 10-point Labor 2002 program to turn out union voters to elect pro-worker candidates and protect and advance the interests of working families through the initiative process.

* Move forward with campaigns to qualify for the ballot and pass the Initiative Integrity Act (to stop the buying and selling of signatures on initiative petitions) and the Minimum Wage Inflation Adjustment Act (to raise the minimum wage from $6.50 $6.90 per hour next January and provide annual cost-of-living adjustment thereafter).

* Undertake a comprehensive program to control health care costs and reform the health care system through member education, development of new tools for bargaining and administering health care programs, partnering with employers to develop cooperative purchasing strategies for prescription drugs and working for reforms that will guarantee access to affordable health care for all Oregonians.

After about 45 minutes of debate, delegates referred back to the Executive Board a resolution calling for the legalization of undocumented immigrant workers. Submitted by Service Employees Local 49, the resolution sought to "condemn the recent actions of the Bush Administration and the Immigration and Naturalization Service (INS) that have targeted hard-working, taxpaying immigrants in our nation's airports and other workplaces."

The resolution urged the AFL-CIO to stop INS raids targeting undocumented immigrants and to encourage Congress to put immigration reform back on the national agenda.

Several unions' leaders, including those from the Fire Fighters, Port of Portland Police, and the building and construction trades, opposed the resolution.

"This is too broad a resolution. We want strict rigid controls of our borders. We want people tracked," said Paul Esslestyn of Springfield Fire Fighters Local 1395 and an AFL-CIO Executive Board member.

Bob Shiprack, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, said the construction industry in Oregon has a problem with illegal immigrants who move from job to job and oftentimes are paid under the table or not at all.

"Why aren't employers who exploit illegal immigrants being punished," he asked. "This resolution doesn't even speak to that."

Jamie Partridge of Letter Carriers Branch 82 said the resolution was in line with policy set by the national AFL-CIO. "This country is a country of immigrants. We need to make it possible to bring these people into our ranks."

On a voice vote, the resolution was referred back to the Executive Board for clarification.

Other resolutions weren't so controversial. Delegates supported keeping Portland General Electric intact as either a private or public entity; and to help employees - members of Electrical Workers Local 125 - "regain their financial solvency" following the collapse of parent company Enron.

The AFL-CIO was directed to work legislatively to expand the Family Medical Leave Act to include paid family medical leave and to submit legislation that would protect striking workers against permanent replacement scabs. The state labor federation will oppose a "transformation plan" outlined by the United States Postal Service primarily because of its language to contract out union jobs; and it supports the Janitors For Justice campaign and safe workplaces for health care workers.

A resolution also called on the Executive Board to adopt a list of "preferred locations" throughout the state for future conventions starting in 2005


June 21, 2002 issue

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