Local voters mostly reject union picks in Oregon’s May 17 election

In a May 17 special election, Portland voters narrowly rejected a six-year $548 million Portland Public Schools bond measure that might have put union members to work repairing and remodeling schools. But the majority did vote to increase and extend a property tax levy that will prevent 200 teacher layoffs. The bond measure had 49.58 percent support, failing by 993 votes. The levy passed easily 58 to 42 percent. Both measures were backed by Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) and Columbia Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council (CPBCTC), and numerous locals.

In a press statement after the election, PPS Superintendent Carole Smith said the bond defeat “doesn’t mark an end of the conversation, but rather the start of a new phase. School buildings are still crumbling. They need serious safety upgrades, and they lack the facilities students need to compete.” District leaders may regroup and come back to voters at a later date with a scaled back proposal.

In candidate races, NOLC and CPBCTC picks fared poorly. Harold Williams, endorsed by the building trades council, won re-election to Portland Community College Zone 2 Director, garnering 47.33 percent of the vote in a four-way race. But other endorsed candidates lost:

  • Former state representative Chuck Riley lost a race for PCC director for Zone 7, Washington County, with 39.7 percent of the vote.
  • Mike Delman, endorsed by NOLC, lost his re-election race for Multnomah Education Service District, with 46.75 percent of the vote.
  • Maggie Brister-Mashia placed second in a three-way contest for Portland Public Schools board, earning 30.25 percent of the vote.
  • Retired Sheet Metal Local 16 business agent Mike Smith also came in second in a three-way race for Reynolds School District, earning 28 percent of the vote.

But a unionist did win elected office in Cottage Grove. Oregon School Employees Association past president Merlene Martin won election to South Lane School Board — where she worked for 22 years as an educational assistant. Martin was endorsed by the Lane County Labor Council.

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