AFL-CIO opposes three November ballot measures: Medical malpractice, SAIF elimination and ‘takings’

In a political battle pitting doctors against lawyers, the Oregon AFL-CIO has sided with attorneys in opposing Ballot Measure 35 — an amendment to the State Constitution pushed by the medical industry that would cap medical malpractice jury awards at $500,000.

The state labor federation’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) met Aug. 13 in Portland to discuss eight statewide ballot measures that voters will decide on in November and to consider action in legislative races. Support or opposition of a ballot measure or lawmaker requires a two-thirds majority vote. Opposition means the state labor federation will work actively to defeat the measure or candidate.

The AFL-CIO will oppose two other measures on the ballot — Measure 38 to abolish SAIF Corp., and Measure 37, a government “takings” measure that would require governments to pay landowners to comply with land use and zoning regulations or allow the landowner to violate the law.

COPE tabled action on a measure that would require balancing timber production, resource conservation/preservation in managing state forests (Ballot Measure 34). And a motion to endorse Measure 36 — an amendment to the State Constitution banning same sex marriage — failed to garner a two-thirds majority vote.

Most of the discussion focused on Measure 35, where only the Oregon Nurses Association spoke in favor of it. Another union that represents nurses, the Oregon Federation of Nurses and Health Care Professionals, an affiliate of the American Federation of Teachers, opposes the measure.

“It has no business being in the Constitution of the state,” said Richard Schwarz, executive director of Oregon-AFT and a member of the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board.

In analyzing the “takings” Measure 37, the state labor federation said, “Most voters will read the title and think they’re voting to require compensation for landowners when governments seize or condemn their property. But such compensation is already required by the State Constitution.”

The AFL-CIO says Measure 37 will “create a separate class of property owners and force governments to deal with them separately when those governments try to enforce zoning or land use laws. This will create a dilemma for cities and counties who will have to decide when to enforce their laws and pay what certain property owners demand and when to exempt those property owners from the equal application of their laws.”

As for Measure 38, union leaders supporting returning SAIF Corp. to state agency status rather than putting it out of business and relying solely on private carriers for workers’ compensation insurance.

The AFL-CIO General Board passed a resolution reaffirming its support for an exclusive system of publicly-owned workers’ comp insurance in Oregon.

In state legislative races, the Oregon AFL-CIO endorsed Democrat Ryan Deckert in Portland’s Senate District 14 and Republican Ben Westlund in Senate District 27 in Bend.

In state House races, the AFL-CIO backed John Doty in District 6; Wesley Price in District 15; Jim Gilbert in District 18; Dick Reynolds in District 23; Betsy Johnson in District 31; Mary Nolan in District 36; Doug Neeley in District 39; Jim Buck in District 50; and Jack Lorts in District 59. All are Democrats.

Earlier this year, COPE issued endorsements for:

Bruce Cronk in Senate Dist. 1; Alan Bates in Senate Dist. 2; Floyd Prozanski in Senate Dist. 4; Joanne Verger in Senate Dist. 5; Hank Franzoni in Senate Dist. 12; Ginny Burdick in Senate Dist. 18; Kate Brown in Senate Dist. 21; and Laurie Monnes-Anderson in Senate Dist. 25.

Peter Buckley in House Dist. 5; Shirley Cairns in House Dist. 7; Paul Hovey, a member of the Carpenters Union, in House Dist. 8; Arrnie Roblan in House Dist. 9; Phil Barnhart in House Dist. 11; E. Terry Beyer in House Dist. 12; Robert Ackerman in House Dist. 13; Bev Ficek in House Dist. 14; Kelley Wirth in House Dist. 16; Brian Grisham in House Dist. 19; Betty Komp in House Dist. 22; Mark Hass in House Dist. 27; Jeff Barker, retired president of the Portland Police Association, in House Dist. 28; Chuck Riley in House Dist. 29; Deborah Boone in House Dist. 32; Mitch Greenlick in House Dist. 33; Brad Avakian in House Dist. 34; Larry Galizio in House District 35; Greg Macpherson in House Dist. 38; Dave Hunt in House Dist. 40; Carolyn Tomei in House Dist. 41; Diane Rosenbaum, a member of Communications Workers Local 7901, in House Dist. 42; Chip Shields in House District 43; Gary Hansen, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, in House Dist. 44; Jackie Dingfelder in House Dist. 45; Steve March of the American Federation of Teachers, in House Dist. 46; Jeff Merkley in House Dist. 47; Mike Schaufler in House Dist. 48; Kathy Firestone in House Dist 51; Judy Stiegler in House Dist. 54; and Bob Jensen in House Dist. 58.

In statewide races, the AFL-CIO endorsed Secretary of State Bill Bradbury; Attorney General Hardy Myers, State Treasurer Randall Edwards and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. In U.S. House races it is backing incumbents David Wu, Earl Blumenauer, Peter DeFazio and Darlene Hooley.

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