Labor all over map in governor’s race

For the upcoming May 16 primary election, most Oregon unions have decided by now whether and who to endorse for governor. Uncharacteristically, a number have taken a pass on the incumbent Democrat, and some have even backed a challenger.

Governor Ted Kulongoski has the endorsement of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, Teamsters Joint Council 37 and United Food & Commercial Workers Local 555, plus a “recommendation for endorsement” from the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

Under AFL-CIO bylaws, in state-wide races a central labor council can only make a “recommendation” to the state body for an endorsement. Recommendations are addressed by the labor federation’s Committee on Political Education. The Oregon AFL-CIO’s COPE meeting was held March 10 — prior to the March 27 meeting when the Northwest Oregon Labor Council made its decision. State COPE took no action in the gubernatorial primary and no further COPE meetings are scheduled prior to the election.

And no public employees union has thus far endorsed Kulongoski, despite his having been an early union favorite in the 2002 election. As a labor attorney, in 1973 Kulongoski helped write the state’s public employee collective bargaining law. But as governor, he supported making cuts to the Public Employees Retirement System, angering many public employees.

Oregon Council 75 of the American, Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees declined to make a endorsement in the governor’s race.

None of the Democratic primary candidates could muster enough votes for an endorsement from the Oregon Education Association, though it came close to backing the campaign for governor of Lane County Commissioner Pete Sorenson.

And the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced March 18 its support for the gubernatorial campaign of former state treasurer Jim Hill.

On March 20, Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA) became the second union to back Hill.

OSEA, alone among the unions, also made an endorsement in the Republican primary: Kevin Mannix. Mannix was the only one of the three leading contenders for the Republican nomination who sought the union’s endorsement.

Ballots will be mailed April 28 and are due May 16. Voters must be registered Democrat to vote in the Democratic primary, and Republican to vote in the Republican primary. The deadline to register to vote, or to change party registration is April 25.

In other political action March 27, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council endorsed Ted Wheeler for Multnomah County chair; Gary Hansen for Multnomah County Commission, District 2; Steve March for Multnomah County auditor; Lynn Peterson for Clackamas County commissioner; Kevin Luby for Washington County Circuit Court judge, District 20; and Erik Sten and Dan Saltzman for Portland City Council, Positions 2 and 3, respectively.

Incumbent Sten has six challengers and incumbent Saltzman has six — including Amanda Fritz, a member of the Oregon Nurses Association at Oregon Health and Science University.

Saltzman has strong support from building trades unions, UFCW Local 555 and the Teamsters [Local 555 and the Teamsters are affiliated with NOLC under Solidarity Charters]. They say Saltzman has a good track record working with construction unions and opposing Wal-Mart.

The motion to endorse Saltzman was strongly opposed at the NOLC delegates meeting by Laborers Local 483, which represents approximately 500 city employees.

“Dan Saltzman is no friend of labor,” said Local 483 Business Manager Richard Beetle, explaining that Saltzman had a hand in scuttling a contract with Parks and Recreation employees. “Our members worked for months without a contract and without retro backpay,” Beetle said. “When the contract finally came before the City Council, Saltzman was the only commissioner to vote against it.”

Beetle listed a half-dozen unions that have endorsed Fritz, including two of the largest unions at the city — the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 189 and Fire Fighters Local 43. Other unions endorsing Fritz are Communications Workers Local 7901, Service Employees Local 49, the Oregon Nurses Association and the District Council of Laborers.

Saltzman was endorsed on a standing vote.

Wheeler is a newcomer challenging incumbent Diane Linn. He has backing from the county’s largest union, AFSCME Local 88; UFCW Local 555; the Teamsters and the Columbia-Pacific Building Trades Council. Linn is backed by the Portland Association of Teachers, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, Fire Fighters Local 43, SEIU Local 49 and the Oregon Nurses Association.

Hansen, a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 and a state representative from Dist. 44 in North Portland, is running for an open seat against three other candidates. Hansen served on the County Commission in the early 1990s, leaving to run for the Legislature.

Peterson is a Lake Oswego city councilor running against incumbent Larry Sowa, who recently switched political parties — from Democrat to Republican. Clackamas County holds a partisan primary while the others are nonpartisan. Therefore, a candidate can win in the primary with 50 percent plus one of the votes. Otherwise, the top two finishers face off in November.

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.