August 4, 2006  Volume 107 Number 16

Oregon AFL-CIO backs Kulongoski for re-election

The Oregon AFL-CIO wasted little time endorsing Gov. Ted Kulongoski for re-election at its meeting July 25 in Portland.

During President Tom Chamberlain’s report to the Committee On Political Education (COPE), he was interrupted and a motion was made to endorse the Democratic incumbent. A vote was taken and Kulongoski won unanimous support, with two unions — the Oregon Nurses Association and Springfield Fire Fighters — abstaining.

A political endorsement requires a two-thirds majority vote.

Support by the AFL-CIO is a huge relief for Kulongoski, who failed to get its backing in the May primary when he faced two labor-friendly Democratic opponents. At the time, public employee unions were still upset with Kulongoski because of his work in the 2005 Legislature to scale back public employees’ pensions through massive reforms.

Kulongoski won the primary. He now faces a well-financed anti-union conservative Republican.

“I think Ted Kulongoski is the best labor governor in the United States in terms of what he says and what he does. His actions follow his talk,” said Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon AFSCME Council 75. It was Allen who moved to endorse Kulongoski.

“Job creation. Capital construction. Minimum wage. Organizing. Health care. He’s with us right down the line,” said AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain, who formerly served as the governor’s labor liaison.

“He just gets it,” added Bob Petroff, directing business representative of Machinists District Lodge 24. “He knows what’s right for workers...he’s one of us.”

Kulongoski, a former member of the Teamsters and Steelworkers unions, refers to himself in speeches as a “labor Democrat.” He was one of the first governors in the nation to sign the pledge for the Employee Free Choice Act, a legislative proposal pending in Congress that calls for card-check elections and employer neutrality during organizing campaigns.

During his first term, Kulongoski signed executive orders designating AFSCME Council 75 as the exclusive representative for some 5,000 registered child care providers throughout the state, and the Service Employees International Union as the exclusive agent for approximately 6,000 state-listed family child care providers.

As the COPE meeting, was winding down, Kulongoski stopped by to thank the political committee for its support.

Despite difference on certain issues, Kulongoski said, “I’ve never forgotten where I came from. I’ve never, ever lost sight of who I represent. And that’s you.”

He said all workers — union and nonunion — are tied to the labor movement. “You carry them. Your success is their success,” he said.

Kulongoski said the November election will be a barometer for the 2008 presidential election. “What happens in America and in Oregon (this November) sets the stage for 2008.”

In other political action, COPE endorsed incumbent U.S. Reps. Earl Blumenauer, David Wu, Peter DeFazio, and Darlene Hooley. They also backed Democrat Carol Voisin, who is challenging Republican Greg Walden in the Second District. Delegates representing construction unions opposed the endorsement, citing Walden’s support for prevailing wage laws.

In legislative races, the AFL-CIO endorsed the following candidates:

Senate Democrats Alan Bates, Dist. 3; Paul Evans, Dist. 10; Peter Courtney, Dist. 11; Elizabeth “Betsy” Johnson, Dist. 16; and Rod Monroe, Dist. 24.

Delegates also endorsed Senate Republican Frank Morse in Dist. 8.

In the House, COPE backed Democrats Howard Owens, Dist. 3; Nancy Nathanson, Dist. 13; Sara Gelser, Dist. 16; Dan Thackaberry, Dist. 17; Brian Grisham, Dist. 19; Jason Brown, Dist. 23; Sal Peralta, Dist. 24; Charles “Chuck” Lee, Dist. 25; Tobias Read, Dist. 27; Mitch Greenlick, Dist. 33; Greg MacPherson; Dist. 38; and Ben Cannon, Dist. 46.

In roll-call voting, COPE endorsed incumbent Republicans Vicki Berger in Dist. 20 and Scott Bruun in Dist. 37. Republican Bob Jenson, Dist. 59, was endorsed on a standing vote of 21-2.

A recommendation by the Oregon AFL-CIO to endorse Republican Rep. Debi Farr in Dist. 14 (Eugene) failed on a standing vote. A motion by the Lane County Labor Council to endorse her Democratic opponent, Chris Edwards, was approved 18-9. That was followed by a motion for a roll-call vote, in which Edwards failed to garner a two-thirds’ majority, resulting in no action.

Before the May primary, COPE endorsed several incumbents in the Senate and House. For a complete list of endorsements go to the labor federation’s Web site at