Kulongoski names Chris Warner as new labor liaison

SALEM — Oregon governor Ted Kulongoski has appointed a new liaison to organized labor. Chris Warner assumed the new post mid-November; the position became vacant when Tom Chamberlain left to become president of the Oregon AFL-CIO.

Warner has spent his working life in the Democratic Party. He worked on transportation issues as a legislative assistant for Congressman Peter Defazio. Then for six years he worked for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, first as state director and then as political director. He joined Kulongoski’s administration as director of the economic revitalization team, which Warner describes as “a multi-agency business recruitment and regulatory streamlining effort.” And for the last two years, he has served as the governor’s legislative director.

Now, his job will be to build Kulongoski’s relationship with organized labor, which has come under occasional strain over the last four years.

“As governor you have to make some tough choices, and sometimes it affects your friends,” Warner said.

Warner said he wants to make sure the governor communicates better with labor.

“Probably few people in this state know labor better than the governor,” Warner said.

“He’s got a great story to tell,” Warner added — about jobs created.

Warner has family ties to labor through his wife Barbara Smith-Warner. She worked for the National Association of Letter Carriers, and later for the national AFL-CIO, and was campaign manager for the successful run of Dan Gardner for Oregon labor commissioner. The couple, who are now parents, met working on the campaign against a 1998 anti-union measure sponsored by Bill Sizemore.

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