Byrd considered for vacant AFL-CIO post; COPE to plan agenda

The Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board will appoint a new secretary-treasurer when it meets at 10 a.m. Friday, March 10, at the Sheet Metal Workers Local 16 Hall, 2379 NE 178th Ave., Portland.

The post has been vacant since December, when longtime Secretary-Treasurer Brad Witt was ruled ineligible to serve because his union, United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, was not an affiliate.

UFCW pulled out of the national AFL-CIO last July and joined with five other unions to create the Change to Win labor federation. Change to Win unions at state and local levels had the option of signing AFL-CIO “Solidarity Charters,” but Local 555 chose not to.

The uncertainty of Solidarity Charters (which must first be approved by national AFL-CIO President John Sweeney and expire after one year), created a budget nightmare for state labor federations and central labor councils. That uncertainty resulted in a resolution at the Oregon AFL-CIO convention last October making the secretary-treasurer a part-time, unpaid ($400 a month stipend) position.

At press time, the only announced candidate was Barbara Byrd, a member of the American Federation of Teachers-Oregon who is the senior instructor/Portland Center coordinator of the Labor Education and Research Center of the University of Oregon.

“Barbara has my support,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. “I think she will be a valuable asset to our organization. She is a skilled strategic planner and she has great relationships with both public- and private-sector unions.”

If no other candidate comes forward, Byrd will be elected by acclamation. If there is opposition, the Executive Board will decide the winner by majority vote.

Later in the day on March 10, the AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education (COPE) will gather to consider endorsements in statewide political races and ballot measures.

Chamberlain said Oregon AFL-CIO Political/Campaign Director Duke Shepard has completed candidate interviews and questionnaires and has met with political coordinators from several large unions to discuss endorsements.

COPE has already endorsed Dan Gardner for labor commissioner and Susan Castillo for superintendent of public instruction. As of press time, neither incumbent had opposition.

The filing deadline is March 7.

Early endorsements have also gone to State Senators Bill Morrisette and Frank Shields; and state representatives Peter Buckley, Paul Holvey, Arnie Roblan, Phil Barnhart, Elizabeth Terry Beyer, Brad Witt, Mary Nolan, Carolyn Tomei, Diane Rosenbaum, Chip Shields and Jackie Dingfelder, and to Mary Botkin, who is not an incumbent.

COPE has also weighed in on several initiative petitions filed for the 2006 general election. The AFL-CIO opposes Initiatives 15, 17, 20, 44, 45, 46, 47 and 48 — all initiatives that restrict the voice of union members in the political process.

COPE also opposes Initiatives 1, 6, 33, 34, 35, 36, 42 and 43 — all arbitrary limits on appropriations that affect the ability of state and local governments to provide basic public services.

Two initiatives filed by Chamberlain — Initiative 149, the Fair Share Health Care Initiative, and Initiative 148, the creation of a Rate Review Board within the Department of Consumer and Business Affairs to evaluate and approve rates for specified group health insurance plans — have been challenged.

“AOI (Associated Oregon Industries) and some big guns from the insurance industry have come out against our initiatives,” Chamberlain said.

Until the initiatives are certified by the secretary of state, signature gathering remains on hold. Initiatives 148 and 149 are statutory changes that will require 75,630 valid signatures of registered voters to qualify for the November ballot. 

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