National AFL-CIO President Rich Trumka, on a Aug. 23-24 visit to Portland, rallied local union activists to stay politically active despite disappointments, and to help elect John Kitzhaber as governor of Oregon.
Trumka sat alongside Kitzhaber at an indoor rally of over 500 union activists at the International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8 hall in Portland.
Referring to the Washington, D.C., experience of the last 18 months, Trumka called Republicans “the party of ‘no,’” saying they are responsible for stalling 400 House-passed bills in the Senate. Democrats have strong majorities in the U.S. House and Senate, but Senate customs let minorities block legislation.
“I know we haven’t got everything that we wanted or that we would like, or what we deserve, or what were promised, or what we worked for,” Trumka told unionists. “But we’ve made a lot of progress. We’ve reined in Wall Street, so that they can’t run wild any more. We have a health care bill to build on. We have a secretary of labor that cares about working people, that will enforce the law. We reversed the Bush taboo on project labor agreements.”
“So here’s the choice we have,” Trumka said. “We can get angry. That’s what they want. They don’t want your vote. They want you to get angry. They want you to get frustrated. They want you to sit on your hands from now until Election Day. That’s what they’re counting on. But what they don’t count on is, we’re union.”
“Here’s the choice,” Trumka said. “We can continue going forward, or we can go back to the days when Wall Street and corporate America ran wild.”
Kitzhaber said he would oppose the privatization of the public sector, and presented high points of his plan to put Oregonians back to work: retrofit schools, restore forests, connect jobseekers with jobs via employment-related training, and cause Oregon money managers to invest local assets locally.
Trumka and Kitzhaber then heard from three union members who were invited to tell their stories of coping with the recession, and they answered written questions from the audience.
Earlier in the day, Trumka toured Oregon Iron Works, where local union members are employed making street cars. Trumka also attended a VIP dinner to raise money for Kitzhaber.
The following morning, Trumka spoke at a short public rally at Terry Shrunk plaza. He and other union leaders then marched to the Portland Building and leafletted passersby with Oregon AFL-CIO fliers that criticized Republican gubernatorial candidate Chris Dudley, a former Portland Trailblazer. Dudley doesn’t know what it’s like to do a real days hard work, the flier said. “As a leader of the NBA players union, he fought to make sure multi-millionaire athletes were paid even more.”