Oregon AFL-CIO opposes health care initiative

CORVALLIS - The Oregon AFL-CIO convention announced candidate endorsements for the November general election and took action on several initiative petitions that could be on the ballot if they qualify with enough signatures.

The most controversial issue involved the AFL-CIO's position opposing Initiative 27, the Health Care For All Initiative. Several delegates pleaded with the labor federation to take no action on the initiative because a "no endorsement" (which means to actively oppose) would put it on the same side with the pharmaceutical and health care industries.

"It is a terrible message for labor to be sending," said Jamie Partridge of Letter Carriers Branch 82, who guaranteed that enough signatures would be collected to get the initiative on the November ballot.

Initiative opponents made it clear that they supported universal health care, their concern was with language in the initiative that would shift too much of the costs to workers.

"This is the first time I've ever spoken against a single-payer system, but if an employer brought this type of a cost-shift to the bargaining table we'd be on strike for a long time," said Ken Allen, executive director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Oregon Council 75.

Chuck Macrae, directing business representative of Woodworkers District Lodge 1-Machinists, said he "couldn't remain neutral on a concept I'm opposed to," explaining that union members with contracts that require employers to pay 100 percent of all health insurance premiums suddenly would be required to pay for those premiums through increased taxes if the measure passed.

In the end, delegates voted 186-64 to oppose the initiative. (For more on the initiative see the Open Forum page in this issue.)

Convention delegates supported five ballot measures referred by the Legislature. Measure 14 removes historical racial references in the State Constitution; Measures 15 and 16 issue bonds for seismic rehabilitation of public education and emergency service buildings; Measure 17 reduces the minimum age for serving in the State Legislature from 21 to 18 years; and Measure 18 allows local districts to establish zones for local property taxes. The AFL-CIO continues its effort to qualify I-143 and I-88 to the November ballot. Initiative 143 would ban the buying and selling of signatures on initiative petitions, and Initiative 88 would raise the state minimum wage to $6.90 an hour and index future increases to the cost of living.

The state labor federation opposed eight initiatives, including I-27's Health Care for All, and Initiative 18, a Bill Sizemore piece that would prohibit the use of payroll-deducted funds for political purposes. Three similar measures have been voted down by Oregonians over the past six years.

Also opposed are I-31 to eliminate property taxes for seniors because it would reduce the state budget without any replacement revenue; I-43 that would ban union and corporate campaign contributions and limit contributions to candidates; I-49 to limit annual growth of state spending; I-67 to eliminate governor appointments to fill judicial vacancies and revise judicial elections to include "None of the Above;" I-90 to divide the state into judicial districts for election of statewide judges; and I-168 for term limits for legislators.

All of the initiatives have until July 5 to turn in signatures to qualify for the ballot. If they do make it they will have different ballot numbers.

In candidate endorsements, the state labor federation backed seven union members. They include Democrats Tony Corcoran of Service Employees Local 503 in Senate Dist. 4; Diane Rosenbaum of Communications Workers Local 7901 in House Dist. 42; Gary Hansen of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 in House Dist. 44; Randy Leonard of Fire Fighters Local 43 in House Dist. 48; Steve March of the American Federation of Teachers in House Dist. 46; Bruce Cronk of the Steelworkers in House Dist. 2; and Jeff Barker, former president of the Portland Police Association, in House Dist. 28.

Other Oregon AFL-CIO-endorsed candidates are: Bill Morrisette in Senate District 6; Vicki Walker in Senate Dist. 7; Barbara Ross in Senate Dist. 8; Bryan Johnston in Senate Dist. 10; Peter Courtney in Senate Dist. 11; Charlie Ringo in Senate Dist. 17; Richard Devlin in Senate Dist. 19; Kurt Schrader in Senate Dist. 20; Frank Shields in Senate Dist. 24; and Rick Metsger in Senate Dist. 26.

Lenn Hannon was endorsed in Senate Dist. 3 pending completion of a questionnaire that labor has asked all candidates to fill out. Joan Dukes is under the same consideration in Senate Dist. 16. She is unopposed.

On the House side, endorsements went to Alan Bates in District 5; Barbara Davidson in Dist. 6; Donald Nordin in Dist. 7; Floyd Prozanski in Dist. 8; Joanne Verger in Dist. 9; Marcia Thompson in Dist. 10; Phil Barnhart in Dist. 11; Elizabeth Terry Beyer in Dist. 12; Robert Ackerman in Dist. 13; Araminta Hawkins in Dist. 14; Joseph Novak in Dist. 15; Kelley Wirth in Dist. 16; Donald Beale in Dist. 17; Mike Swaim in Dist. 21; Betty Komp in Dist. 22; Timothy Duerfeldt in Dist. 24; Mark Hass in Dist. 27; Chuck Riley in Dist. 29; Aron Carleson in Dist. 30; Elaine Hopson in Dist. 32; Mitch Greenlick in Dist. 33; Brad Avakian in Dist. 34; Mary Nolan in Dist. 36; Greg Macpherson in Dist. 38; Martha Schrader in Dist. 39; Dave Hunt in Dist. 40; Carolyn Tomei in Dist. 41; Deborah Kafoury in Dist. 43; Jackie Dingfelder in Dist. 45; Laurie Monnes Anderson in Dist. 50; and Jan Lee in Dist. 51.

Lane Shetterly in Dist. 23, Betsy Johnson in Dist. 31 and Jeff Merkley in Dist. 47 were endorsed contingent upon filling out an acceptable questionnaire.

One candidate - Republican Bob Tiernan in Senate District 19 - received a "no endorsement," meaning labor will actively campaign against him. Tiernan, an outspoken opponent of organized labor in general and public employees in particular, will face Democrat Richard Devlin in November.

Endorsed for re-election to the U.S. House of Representatives were longtime labor allies Earl Blumenauer in the Third District; David Wu in the First District; Darlene Hooley in the Fifth District; and Peter DeFazio in the Fourth District.

June 21, 2002 issue

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