UFCW Local 555 moves to rejoin Northwest Oregon Labor Council

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, the largest private sector union in Oregon, has signed a Solidarity Charter to maintain its affiliation with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

UFCW was among four international unions to leave the AFL-CIO last July to form the Change to Win federation. Their departure left a huge financial void in state and local labor movements, in addition to the loss of many union leaders and activists who were no longer eligible to hold office.

To offset the damage, the two national labor federations got together and worked out a deal —called Solidarity Charters — that lets non-affiliated local unions fully participate in AFL-CIO state feds and central labor councils, and allows members of those unions holding charters to seek and hold office with full voting rights.

The unions that make up Change to Win are UFCW, the Service Employees International Union, UNITE HERE, the Teamsters and the Carpenters. The Laborers and Farm Workers unions also belong to the new federation, but have yet to disaffiliate from the AFL-CIO.

UFCW Local 555’s Solidarity Charter will return more than 9,000 members to the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, said Judy O’Connor, executive secretary-treasurer.

The charter, once it is approved by the national AFL-CIO, also will allow Local 555 to retain several elected positions and full voting rights with the council. They include Executive Board members Gene Pronovost, president of Local 555, and Jeff McDonald, executive vice president of Local 555; Roberta Cunningham, a trustee, and Bob Spicher, a reading clerk.

O’Connor said the council posts were never declared vacant while the national federations ironed out the framework for the Solidarity Charters.

“I’ve been waiting for this day to happen,” O’Connor told members of Local 555 at their annual holiday party Dec. 9, when the announcement was made in the form of a Christmas package Pronovost presented to her. “This is an awesome gift,” she said.

Solidarity Charters are issued directly by the national AFL-CIO and will be valid until Dec. 31, 2006.

O’Connor said Teamsters Joint Council 37 also signed a charter to retain “section membership” with the labor council. She hopes the reaffiliation will lead to the return of several Teamsters locals.

Prior to the announcement of its reaffiliation with NOLC, Local 555 presented Labor’s Community Service Agency’s Emergency Fund with a check for $2,000, and pledged to give $500 a month in 2006.

At the state level, Service Employees Locals 503 and 49 have signed Solidarity Charters with the Oregon AFL-CIO.

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