Rosenbaum challenges Witt for secretary-treasurer

State Representative Diane Rosenbaum, a longtime member of Communications Workers of America Local 7901, announced this week her candidacy for secretary-treasurer of the Oregon AFL-CIO.

She will challenge incumbent Brad Witt, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555.

Witt, 50, announced last week that he and AFL-CIO President Tim Nesbitt will run as a slate for re-election. Witt, of Clatskanie, has served as the state labor federation’s chief financial officer since 1991. Nesbitt, a Portland-area member of the Service Employees International Union, was elected to his first term four years ago, when he and Witt also ran as a team under the “Stronger Together Committee.”

“The past four years have been both challenging and rewarding for our labor movement in Oregon,” Witt said. “We have confronted and defeated anti-worker ballot initiatives and pioneered new and successful strategies to take back the ballot for working families.”

Witt said an increase in union affiliations and organizing victories that have resulted in first contracts for some 20,000 new union members have given the state labor federation new-found clout in Oregon.

“We have become the go-to organization on political, economic and social issues in this state,” he said.

Rosenbaum, 53, is a 28-year member of Portland-based Local 7901. She has served on the AFL-CIO Executive Board since 1993 and as a full-time officer, shop steward and on the Finance Committee of her local union. She is a past Executive Board member and delegate to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council and served as president of the Oregon State Industrial Union Council and of the Coalition of Labor Union Women.

In 1998, Rosenbaum was elected state representative for Southeast Portland’s District 42. While running her own campaign, she also served as a full-time coordinator for the AFL-CIO campaign that defeated Bill Sizemore’s “paycheck deception” ballot measure.

In the Legislature, Rosenbaum has been vice-chair of the House Business and Labor Committee for the past two sessions, and has a lifetime 100 percent Committee on Political Education voting record from the Oregon AFL-CIO.

“Diane’s nickname in the Legislature is ‘Rosie’ because like ‘Rosie the Riveter’ she always stands up for labor,” said State Representative Gary Hansen, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290.

“I want to put my leadership skills and energy to work for my union brothers and sisters in a powerful and united Oregon AFL-CIO,” she said.

In addition to his duties as secretary-treasurer, Witt handles workers’ compensation, health and safety, workforce and economic development, and natural resource issues for the state labor federation.

He is a gubernatorial appointee to the State Board of Forestry and the Oregon Workforce Investment Board. He is also the former board’s appointee to Oregon’s Watershed Enhancement Board. He sits on the executive board of the Oregon Forest Resource Institute as that organization’s employee representative. He also serves as a representative of organized labor on the state’s Pesticide Use Reporting Work Group, two Oregon Occupational Safety and Health (OR-OSHA) committees (the Safe Employment, Education and Training Committee and the OR-OSHA Partnership Committee) and the bi-state Lower Columbia River Estuary Committee.

Witt is also a member of Management/Labor Advisory Committee on Workers Compensation.

Prior to his election as secretary-treasurer in 1991, Witt was a business representative for UFCW Local 555. He has served in a variety of staff capacities at the national AFL-CIO and was a staff researcher for the Western Council of Industrial Workers, an affiliate of the Carpenters Union.

Witt said his and Nesbitt’s goals remain the same as they were four years ago: “To continue to rebuild labor’s strength in numbers in the workplace and to use that strength in numbers to win elections and advance a pro-worker agenda in the political arena.”

“We faced many of the same threats four years ago,” Witt said. “But we proved that anti-union demagogues like Bill Sizemore can be beaten. And we built a stronger labor movement in the process.”

At a Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) meeting Aug. 11, UFCW Local 555 and the Oregon Machinists Council, the political arm of Machinists District Lodge 24, announced endorsements for the Nesbitt/Witt slate.

“In our unity there is great strength,” Nesbitt told NOLC delegates. “As your team, we want to continue raising our voice.”

Rosenbaum is reporting early support from CWA, Letter Carriers and Service Employees International Union Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union.

“Diane Rosenbaum is a great labor leader who fights for the rights of union members and all workers. She has earned my support for secretary-treasurer,” added Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon Council 75 of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees.

The election for secretary-treasurer, president and Executive Board seats will take place at the Oregon AFL-CIO convention in Albany on Wednesday, Sept. 10. The convention opens Monday, Sept. 8.

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