Carpenters Union organizes Portland May Day event

"We want to be able to have less time working and more time fishing!" declared union Carpenter Gene Lawhorn at a May Day rally in Portland's North Park Blocks that attracted more than 600 participants.

Lawhorn's union, Carpenters Local 247, played a major role in the planning of this year's May Day activities in Portland, in part because members were concerned that the historical significance of the day in labor history had become lost to a large contingent of other issues at May Day events in recent years.

To get the focus back on the struggle for the eight-hour day and other benefits unions have fought for, the local brought signs to the event, with the slogan: "May Day: It's about the eight-hour day."

The association of May 1 with workers' struggles dates back to May 1, 1886, the day the Knights of Labor and the American Federation of Labor called a general strike to demand a workday of no more than eight hours. In the next few days 350,000 workers at 1,200 factories around the United States went on strike.

In Chicago, police violence against strikers and counter-violence against police resulted in the politicized trials of eight anarchist labor leaders, who were sentenced to death for a bombing that killed one policeman, despite no evidence that they were responsible for the bomb. Four were hung and one committed suicide before the remaining three were pardoned by the governor of Illinois.

In 1889, an international Socialist convention declared May 1 as International Workers Day, and to this day it's celebrated as an official holiday in communist and socialist countries, and unofficially by labor activists elsewhere.

In Portland, this year's May Day march was smaller than the 2001 and 2002 marches, but it was also without the police heavy-handedness that marred the earlier marches. Instead, about 1,000 celebrants gathered in the North Park Blocks, some listening to speeches, others dancing around a Maypole.

Ironically, while May Day may be a day to honor those who fought and died for the eight-hour day, those gains are being lost, Local 247 Political Director Darrell Duffy told rallygoers. Earlier this year, the Bush Administration announced plans to change the Fair Labor Standards Act, the law which established the eight-hour day, by reclassifying millions of workers as salaried workers who would not be protected by the law that requires overtime pay for employees who work more than 40 hours in a week.

Bend area unionists celebrate May Day after long void

BEND - "Solidarity Forever" and "Union Maid" resonated through Bend's Community Center as close to 50 Central Oregon union members, retired workers and community activists held their first May Day celebration in decades.

General Strike, the Portland-based labor band, provided labor songs and stories at the May 1 event organized by the Central Oregon Labor Council, Central Oregon Building Trades Council, and Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA).

Highlighting the evening were comments on Central Oregon labor history by Mary Fraser, retired president of Communication Workers of America (CWA) Local 9210, and David Stranahan, an OSEA member from Redmond.

Fraser spoke of her experiences as a telephone union leader in the 1950s and reminded people of the International Typographical Union (ITU) strike at the Bend Bulletin in 1954-56. Fraser's husband was ITU local president during that strike, which was broken by then-publisher Robert Chandler.

Stranahan spoke of the solidarity of the Redmond teachers strike in the late 1970s. Teachers held out during a cold winter, with only a few crossing the picket line, Stranahan said, and they still speak of the solidarity that won the strike.

John Ruel reported on a CWA organizing campaign at Bend Cable. A strong majority of cable television workers support the drive, said Ruel, despite their employer's union-busting tactics. A March 27 election was postponed when Bend Cable filed charges against the union. Workers are awaiting the outcome of a National Labor Relations Board investigation.

Bend City Council member John Hummel also spoke, urging labor support for a public transit proposal he plans to present to the council.

Chuck Forward, OSEA field representative, and Rod White, playing a 1926 National Steel guitar/banjo, opened the May Day celebration with labor songs.

May Day traffic jam at Wauna

A May Day rally at the Georgia-Pacific paper mill in Wauna drew the attention of the Clatsop County Sheriff's Department - and backed up traffic in and out of the mill located about 25 miles east of Astoria some 15 cars deep. The rally was sponsored by the Organizers Roundtable of the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council. G-P was selected because it is using too many out-of-state workers on a $200 million installation of its No. 6 paper machine. With unemployment in Oregon at a nation-high 7 percent, thousands of construction workers are unemployed, yet G-P (which is acting as its own general contractor) is bid-shopping contracts.

According to union officials, more than 100 workers and numerous subcontractors are from outside the state. Two gates have been established for union and non-union subs, which number about 33 non-union to 29 union. Clatsop County is an enterprise zone, and G-P is receiving tax breaks to invest in the area. Once completed, the mill will employ another 110 workers who will be members of PACE Local 8-1097.

May 16, 2003 issue

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