House considers putting union contracts to vote

SALEM — House Majority Leader Wayne Scott, (R-Canby), has introduced a bill that would add a new section to the Oregon Constitution requiring all public employee collective bargaining agreements to be voted on by the general public.

House Joint Resolution 41 says that any union contract or any agreement reached by arbitration could not be officially ratified “unless the agreement has been first approved at a May or November election by the electors within the political subdivision proposing to enter into the collective bargaining agreement.”

The resolution further states that the Legislature would summarize and provide the key material provisions of the collective bargaining agreement for the ballot.

Scott, who was recently appointed co-chair of the Ways and Means Committee, owns some 140 properties across several Oregon counties, including the Comfort Suites hotel in Salem, the Best Western Sunrise Inn in Sublimity, and a fireworks business in Aurora. These businesses were made public earlier this year in an article by the Salem Statesman-Journal reporting that Scott had been hit with six liens for failing to pay personal property taxes and for three consecutive years he paid late penalties for his residential property taxes.

“Wayne Scott fancies himself the Tom DeLay of the Republican caucus. He plays politics with a very heavy hand,” said Tim Nesbitt, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, referring to the GOP majority leader of the U.S. House of Representatives who hails from Texas.

For example, last month when Oregon AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Brad Witt sought appointment to an open House seat in District 31, Scott pulled out all the stops to block it. Witt still prevailed with a majority vote from county commissioners representing Columbia, Clatsop and Multnomah counties. But after being sworn into office, Witt had to wait nearly two weeks for committee assignments, and the House leadership has refused to hold any field hearings in his district.

Nesbitt said HJR 41 stems from the Parry Center strike earlier this year by members of Service Employees Local 503, During that two-month dispute, Oregon Governor Ted Kulongoski put pressure on the center’s management — Trillium Family Service, a non-profit that gets 90 percent of its revenue from government sources — to settle or face losing some of its funding.

“That’s where this resolution is coming from” Nesbitt said. “It’s a ruse to make bargaining prohibitively difficult in the public sector ... and it certainly exposes an anti-union agenda.”

Scott recorded a 47 percent Committee on Political Education voting record in the 2003 legislative session, as tracked by the Oregon AFL-CIO.