December 4, 2009 Volume 110 Number 23

Union activist Hanna becomes president of AFSCME 88

American Federation of State, County, and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88 swore in a new top leader Nov. 18.

Michael Hanna, a 38-year-old database administrator in the Multnomah County IT department, is a co-founder of the group Next Wave, which recruits young members to become active in AFSCME. Now he’s president of Local 88, Oregon AFSCME Council 75’s second-largest local, representing 2,800 workers at Multnomah County and three local non-profits.

Hanna got his start in activism as a student at University of Wisconsin Madison, volunteering for the Wisconsin Public Interest Research Group. After earning a bachelor’s degree in international relations and environmental studies in 1994, he returned to the San Francisco Bay Area, where he had grown up, and got temp job as a techie. He later moved to Colorado and volunteered as an independent media activist.

Hanna told the Labor Press he was profoundly affected by television and online reports of the 1999 protests in Seattle against the World Trade Organization (WTO), so much that he and a group of friends decided to make Portland their home, to be closer to the movement.

Following a stint as an IT consultant to the county, he became a county employee and Local 88 member in 2002. In 2003, he took time off to protest a WTO summit in Cancún, and helped run an independent media Web site that covered the demonstrations.

But it was recruitment by staff rep Bryan Lally and Local 88 President Becky Steward that led Hanna to see that the union movement could be a force for justice in society. Hanna trained to be a workplace steward, and then ran unopposed for Local 88 secretary in 2005.

Attending AFSCME’s 2006 national convention in Chicago, he was struck by how few delegates were under 35. To bring the next generation into unionism, he and others resolved to found Next Wave.

In 2007, he was elected Local 88 vice president, which meant he also chaired the local political action committee. Within Oregon AFSCME, he became county-sector vice president, a member of the statewide union’s Executive Committee, and a member of its political action committee.

Local 88 president is an unsalaried position, but it comes with plenty of responsibility. Hanna is upping the stakes with an ambitious vision.

Hanna said his goal is for Local 88 to be a “model of 21st century unionism.” Members would win more choice and flexibility in work schedules, workspaces, and technology use — and have greater access to preventative health care and continuing education. Technology would be used to educate members and engage them, through the union, to improve the workplace, become more active in the community, and connect to allies in global movements for justice.

Hanna also plans to continue to recruit and mentor member leaders, especially among the younger generation, because so many older members will be retiring in the next few years. And, Hanna says, he wants to promote a union culture of risk-taking and continuous improvement.

Hanna assumed office at the local’s Nov. 18 general membership meeting. Also at the meeting, Candace Hjort was re-elected secretary, and Lori Ubell was elected treasurer. All the offices have two-year terms. Local 88 will choose its vice president Dec. 16 in a runoff election between Grant Swanson and Gary Magnuson. They are the top two vote-getters in a race that also included Madolyn Frazier and Jeanne Ramsten. No candidate got more than 50 percent in that first round.

If his vision catches on, Hanna thinks the county could become a more attractive workplace, and its workers less likely to burn out.

Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.