Oregon AFL-CIO's proposed Workers Memorial hits bureaucratic roadblock

SALEM — The Oregon AFL-CIO and its Safety, Health and Workers’ Compensation Committee is forging ahead with their plan for a permanent Workers Memorial at the State Capitol, despite hitting a bureaucratic road-block.

Bob Williams, chair of the committee, and committee member Marilyn Terhaar met March 14 with the Department of Administrative Services and the state architect to review the labor federation’s request for putting a Memorial of the Fallen Worker on the Capitol grounds — preferably on the west side near the Circle of Flags.

Williams and Terhaar presented a comprehensive plan — including architectural renderings — of a “circle of remembrance” that would include four to six pillars engraved with quotes. The pillars would rest atop a cobblestone base, with each stone engraved with the name of a financial donor. In the center would be a bell to toll as the names of workers killed on the job are read during Workers Memorial Day ceremonies held annually on April 28.

Nationally, there are 133 worker memorial sites in 33 states — ranging from life-size bronze statues of miners to wall placards.

“The state architect said our memorial project was a one-in-a-million type project,” Williams reported April 7 to the Safety and Health Committee.

Williams told the Northwest Labor Press on April 14 that DAS “had many objections” to the proposal. “They promised to write us a letter outlining in detail the application steps for establishing the memorial, but we haven’t heard a word back from them.”

The Safety and Health Committee has talked about a permanent workers memorial site for several years. Committee members met with state officials nearly two years to get an outline on the basic process for getting it done.

“We thought we had a green light to proceed,” Williams said. “Now it appears we’re back at step one.”

The proposed Workers Memorial wouldn’t cost taxpayers a dime. The AFL-CIO is collecting donations from unions, their international, businesses and individuals to pay for it.

Committee member Al Dorgan, president of Albany-based Steelworkers Local 7150 and a member of the AFL-CIO Executive Board, said the cost will be between $50,000 to $100,000. He said some building trades unions have already pledged to help construct the memorial.

“But we have long way to go,” he said.

Tom Chamberlain, president of the Oregon AFL-CIO, has sent a letter to affiliates seeking financial help. He hopes they will come in quickly and that the monument can be completed by Workers Memorial Day April 28, 2007 — but that may be optimistic given the time it could take to get approval from the state — if they ever do.

Contributions can be sent to: Workers Memorial Fund, c/o Oregon AFL-CIO, 2110 State Street, Salem, OR 97301

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