Labor's 'Campaign Heroes' honored at dinner

Leaders of Oregon’s labor movement dined with pro-union elected leaders and community supporters Sept. 8 in a fundraising dinner to honor “Labor’s Campaign Heroes.” The event was scheduled at Oregon State University in Corvallis to coincide with the Oregon AFL-CIO convention in nearby Albany.

Congressman Peter DeFazio, the dinner’s keynote speaker, praised Bush Administration proposals for massive investments in schools, water systems, highways, and hospitals to get the nation back on its feet. Unfortunately, DeFazio said, the nation those investments are intended for is Iraq, while the administration ridicules members of Congress who want similar spending to rebuild America. DeFazio said the amounts being proposed to rebuild Iraq would create 500,000 Davis-Bacon prevailing wage construction jobs a year.

The guest of honor at the dinner was social justice activist Chip Shields, without whose support — says Oregon AFL-CIO political director Steve Lanning — the minimum wage initiative would not have made it to the 2002 ballot. Shields is best known as an opponent of the death penalty, and as founder and executive director of Better People, a Portland non-profit that works to rehabilitate ex-convicts and helps place them in living wage jobs. At the dinner, Shields encouraged union members to join efforts for criminal justice reform.

“Criminal justice issues are really working people’s issues,” Shields said. “Prison issues are working people’s issues. After all, it sure isn’t the Ken Lays of the world who end up doing hard time in this country.”

Also honored at the dinner were the unions with the most successful electoral efforts during last year’s election season:
* United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 for its statewide voter registration program.
* Oregon AFSCME Council 75 for mobilizing members to turn out in the most elections in a cycle from 2002 to 2003.
* Service Employees Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union, for making the most phone calls in the state in 2002.
* New affiliate that hit the ground running: Oregon Nurses Association.
* Highest voter turnout for a union under 500 members: American Federation of Musicians — 85.4 percent.
* Highest voter turnout for a union with 500 to 2,000 members: International Longshore and Warehouse Union — 87.1 percent.
* Highest voter turnout for a union with 2,500 to 5,000 members: Fire Fighters State Council — 85.3 percent.
* Highest voter turnout for a union over 5,000 members: American Federation of Teachers-Oregon — 84.3 percent.

Gary Will, retired Machinist representative, was also recognized for his work on the Kulongoski campaign.


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