September 18, 2009 Volume 110 Number 18

Portland union picnic draws bevy of elected leaders

Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader told a Labor Day audience at Oaks Park that he supports President Obama’s health care reform plan, and that he and other lawmakers need labor’s voice of support for a public option at town hall meetings.

“This government is here actually to help you, and it’s been doing the job,” Schrader said. “I love the guys, when I go to the town halls, who don’t want government involved in their life. I think well, geez, I want you not to sign up for Medicare when you turn 65 please, buddy. These people have no idea, no idea what their government does for them on a daily basis.”

The first-term congressman from the 5th District said he doesn’t want a small segment of the community — “the 1 percent that may be a little vocal and the press seems to like these days” — to undermine the health care reform plan that Obama has put forth.

He pleaded with union members to take time from their busy schedules to attend town hall meetings “and talk about how we need a public option, how we need a well-run health care system for every American. It would really help us out.”

U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley told picnickers that health insurance costs are eating up any increases in workers’ wages. “We’re all in this together and we have the moment of opportunity — affordable, accessible health care for every single American. Let’s get it done in the next two months!”

Also speaking at the picnic sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council were Secretary of State Kate Brown, Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, Portland City Commissioner Dan Saltzman, and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain.

U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden did a walk-through earlier in the day before leaving for Washington, D.C.

Portland Mayor Sam Adams also made a brief appearance.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate John Kitzhaber spent a good portion of the day visiting picnic sites of the various unions. He flipped hamburgers for members of UFCW Local 555, the first union to endorse his campaign.

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