PGE workers and Democrats demand accountability for corporate crooks

Twenty-four hours before Republican President George W. Bush flew to Portland to raise money for Senator Gordon Smith's re-election campaign, the Democratic Party of Oregon issued a public call for accountability for corporate crooks.

In an hour-long mini-rally Aug. 21 at downtown Portland's Lownsdale Square Park, three PGE/Enron workers spoke of the pension plan losses they suffered when their company stock plummeted following revelations of fraudulent accounting.

Journey linemen Roy Rinard and Dave Covington and special tester Dary Ebright, all members of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 125, lost a combined $1.2 million in retirement savings.

Enron executives cashed out their stock options, reaping millions of dollars in gains, before they announced the company had lied about its earnings. Meanwhile, the workers were restricted from selling the company stock in their 401(k) plans, stock they'd been encouraged by the company to buy.

"I haven't seen our government going after any of the people that ruined us financially," Ebright said.

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt said the Enron and WorldCom scandals have caused the loss of 28,500 jobs and nearly $2 billion in retirement savings.

Mississippi State Representative Erik Fleming, who represents the district where WorldCom is headquartered, flew to Portland for the occasion. He said he wants justice for the workers in his district hurt by the scandal at WorldCom.

Fleming called Bush's proposal to invest Social Security funds in the stock market "insanity gone mad."

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Ted Kulongoski and Secretary of State Bill Bradbury, Oregon's Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate, called for a change in the rules to protect working people from corporate wrongdoing.

"Those who commit corporate fraud should go to jail," Bradbury said. "You don't fix these problems by having a dinner with CEOs where you charge $25,000 a plate," Bradbury said. Tickets to the dinner with the president sold for $1,000 a piece; $25,000 was the charge if donors wanted their picture taken with Bush.

September 6, 2002 issue

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