March 19, 2010 Volume 111 Number 6

Labor groups announce endorsements for May primary

Democratic gubernatorial candidates John Kitzhaber and Bill Bradbury each secured major labor endorsements over the past two weeks, splitting labor in the May 18 primary.

On March 5, the Oregon AFL-CIO’s Committee on Political Education endorsed Kitzhaber on a 17-4 standing vote.

The following day, Bradbury, a former secretary of state, picked up endorsements from the 47,000-member Oregon Education Association (OEA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT)-Oregon and its affiliated Oregon School Employees Association (OSEA). Later that week the National Association of Letter Carriers Branch 82 endorsed Bradbury.

In addition to the state labor federation, Kitzhaber, who served two terms as governor from 1995 to 2003, has endorsements from the 30,000-member Teamsters Joint Council No. 37; the Oregon State Council of Fire Fighters; the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council; the Columbia Pacific and Pendleton building and construction trades councils; Bricklayers & Allied Craftworkers Local 1; Insulators Local 36; Roofers Local 156; Cement Masons Local 555; the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Locals 48 and 112; Iron Workers Local 29; Plasterers Local 82; Sheet Metal Workers Local 16; Boilermakers Local 500; Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555; and the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters.

On March 13, the Oregon State Council of the Service Employees International Union took no action in the race. SEIU represents 50,000 public employees, home and child care providers, and hospital, janitorial, and nursing home workers in Oregon.

SEIU, Teamsters, and UFCW are affiliates of the Change to Win labor federation. The Carpenters Council and OEA are independent. None are affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

An endorsement by the Oregon AFL-CIO requires a two-thirds’ majority vote. The motion to endorse Kitzhaber did not come as a recommendation from the state labor federation, but rather from Board member Ken Allen, executive director of Oregon AFSCME Council 75. It was seconded by Jeff Smith, president of Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8.

Board members representing AFT, OSEA, and the Oregon Machinists Council forwarded a motion asking that an endorsement be postponed until after the primary, or at least until their organizations could meet and take a position.

“The Oregon Machinists Council doesn’t meet until the end of April, but with two labor Democrats in the primary, the Machinists don’t tend to take a position out of respect for both candidates,” said OMC Chair Steve Wilson.

“John Kitzhaber was a good governor,” Allen said. “We had a good relationship in the past. He has always been honest with us. We know there is going to be a $2.5 billion budget problem next biennium; we can’t think of anyone else we would want to work with.”

Representatives from the Fire Fighters and the Building Trades Council spoke against the motion to postpone.

“We generally don’t get involved in primaries, said Kelly Bach, president of the State Fire Fighters Council. “But this was a race we felt we needed to get into early.”

The motion to postpone the endorsement failed on a standing vote of 14-11.

Abstaining from the 17-4 endorsement vote were delegates representing OSEA, Machinists, Steelworkers, National Association of Letter Carriers, Oregon Nurses Association, Marion-Polk-Yamhill Counties Labor Council, and the Southeastern Oregon Labor Council.

No candidates were endorsed in the Republican gubernatorial primary.

In other political action, the Oregon AFL-CIO endorsed Congressmen David Wu, D-1st District, and Peter DeFazio, D-4th District, for re-election. Representatives of the Oregon State Building Trades Council abstained in the Wu vote, citing issues it has with the congressman on several construction projects.

COPE postponed making endorsements in the 3rd and 5th Congressional Districts, and for U.S. Senate. Incumbent U.S. Rep. Earl Blumenauer and U.S. Sen. Ron Wyden have yet to fill out questionnaires, and the state labor federation wants to discuss with incumbent Rep. Kurt Schrader his positions on trade, health care reform and finance accountability.

Delegates took action in only two other statewide races, supporting the re-election of Susan Castillo as Superintendent of Public Instruction and Judge Robert Wollheim to the Oregon Court of Appeals.

In State Senate races, the AFL-CIO endorsed Alan Bates, D-Medford, for re-election, and Chris Edwards, D-Eugene. Edwards is leaving the House, where he received “Silver Medal” status from COPE, to run for the Senate.

In the House, the AFL-CIO supported Bob Jenson, R-Pendleton; Greg Smith, R-Heppner (contingent on him turning in an acceptable questionnaire); Jeff Barker, D-Aloha; Margaret Doherty, D-Tigard; Lou Frederick, D-Portland; Sara Gelser, D-Corvallis; Nick Kahl, D-Troutdale; Mike Matthews, D-Gresham; Arnie Roblan, D-Coos Bay; and Jefferson Smith, D-Portland. All are incumbents.

COPE also is backing Lynn Howe, D-Medford. She is running against incumbent Republican Sal Esquivel.

Both Smith and Jenson have decent COPE voting records in the Legislature, and both supported Ballot Measures 66 and 67. Last session, Smith, whose father is a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, received a “Bronze Medal” from the AFL-CIO, putting him on par with Democrats Kahl, Jefferson Smith, Debbie Boone, Carolyn Tomei, Jean Cowan, Suzanne Van Orman, Nancy Nathanson, and Chris Harker.

Jenson received an “Honorable Mention” for his voting record last session.

Now, Smith and Jenson are targets of the Oregon Republican Party. GOP Chair Bob Tiernan sent each a scathing letter warning them not to accept endorsements or contributions from any labor group. ‘Tea party’ members have been recruited to run against them.

Tiernan’s letter read in part:

“I have recently been made aware of the intentions of public employee unions in Oregon to provide you and your campaign with monetary, consulting and grassroots support.... I strongly urge you to refuse this support of the public employee unions and their Democratic allies.... If you choose not to reject any assistance from the public employee unions and their Democratic allies, then I respectfully request that you consider removing yourself from the election for the Republican Party nomination ...”

In December, COPE made a round of early endorsements for incumbents with 100 percent COPE voting records.

Congressional and state races in which no endorsement was made will be revisited after the primary.

AFSCME Local 88 endorses Jeff Cogen for Multnomah County Chair

The American Federation of State County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 88, representing nearly 2,800 workers at Multnomah County, conducted an emergency endorsement meeting March 10 due to last-minute changes in candidate filings for Multnomah County Chair and Commissioner, District 2. Chair Ted Wheeler vacated his position to accept an appointment by Gov. Ted Kulongoski to serve as state treasurer, following the death of Ben Westlund. Wheeler then filed to run for treasurer in the May primary. Upon Wheeler’s sudden departure, Multnomah County Commissioner Jeff Cogen dropped his re-election bid in District 2 in order to run for chair. Local 88, which endorsed Cogen for re-election, voted to support him in his race for County Chair. Local 88 took no action in the race to succeed Cogen. Eight candidates have filed to run. At a candidates’ forum March 10, each candidate had an opportunity to make opening and closing statements, and each responded to questions submitted directly by members. Afterward, members took three straw polls, and numerous proposals were made for endorsements. Unable to reach consensus after nearly two hours, members voted to withhold an endorsement. The eight candidates are Karol Collymore, Chuck Currie, Gary Hansen, Tom Markgraf, Paul van Orden, Roberta Phillip, Maria Rubio and Loretta Smith.

Teamsters, Longshore endorse Cornett for Portland City Council

Teamsters Joint Council No. 37 and the International Longshore and Warehouse Union’s Oregon Area District Council have endorsed Jesse Cornett for Portland City Council. Cornett is challenging three-term incumbent Dan Saltzman, who has been endorsed by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. “Our members think what we need right now is a fresh voice who is willing to make the tough decisions needed to put Portlanders back to work,” said Teamsters Political Director Lynn Lehrbach. Cornett has been an active participant in Portland’s progressive politics, co-founding the Oregon Bus Project and the political blog Blue Oregon. It is his first run for public office.

 


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