Labor split over Fritz, Nolan for Portland City Council

In the race for Portland City Council, Position 1, incumbent Amanda Fritz is facing a challenge from State Rep. Mary Nolan. Both were once union-represented workers, and both have union support for their candidacies.

Amanda Fritz

Fritz is endorsed by Communications Workers of America Local 7901, Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), and United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555. Nolan is endorsed by the Columbia Pacific Building Trades Council, AFSCME Local 189, Oregon AFSCME Council 75, Carpenters Locals 156 and 196, International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 48, International Longshore and Warehouse Union Local 8, Portland Association of Teachers, Portland Fire Fighters Association, Portland Police Association, Service Employees International Union Local 49, and Teamsters Joint Council 37.

Fritz is a former psychiatric nurse who became a member of the ONA when she went to work at Oregon Health and Science University in 1986. She took part in ONA’s 2001-02 strike. Though she went part-time after 1990 and eventually left OHSU, she maintains ONA membership on the professional association side.

AFSCME Local 189 — which represents City employees — backed Fritz previously, but this time is endorsing Nolan. Local 189 PAC Chair Mark Gipson says it was not an easy decision, but members fault Fritz for changes to City policy on overtime and breaks.

“The endorsement process is the only way we have of saying we approve or disapprove,” said Local 189 President Debbie Hussey.

Mary Nolan

With Nolan, they have a candidate with a strong labor record in the Legislature and top ratings from Oregon AFL-CIO. Nolan was a union member with the City of Portland Professional Employees Association (COPPEA) when she was a city planner. Later, she was a City bureau manager — director of Environmental Services. For the past 11 years (six terms) she’s served as a Democrat in the Oregon House, including a stint as House Majority Leader. She had a hand in passing a $1 billion capital construction budget, helped secure funding for the Milwaukie light rail line, and helped pass an increase in income taxes for corporations and high-income taxpayers, which voters later ratified as Measures 66/67. Her campaign centers on her ability to get results.

Though Fritz often has been in the minority on City Council votes, and was the sole vote against the Columbia River Crossing, she claims results, too: Saving tax dollars by paying off bonds sooner and by pushing for a less expensive facility to treat water for cryptosporidium.

“Amanda Fritz is a scrapper, and we like scrappers,” said UFCW Local 555 Secretary-treasurer Jeff Anderson. Local 555 also likes that Fritz is an expert on land use rules, which could make a difference if the union finds itself opposing Walmart expansions. Anderson questioned Nolan’s acceptance of a $5,000 contribution from Walmart, which is a notoriously anti-union company.

The contribution was for a legislative race, not City Council, Nolan explains, and came after she worked with Walmart on a legislative proposal having to do with recycling. Nolan said she made it clear, when she accepted the contribution, that she continued to disagree with them on land use practices and labor practices.

Nolan criticizes Fritz, meanwhile, for refusing to take contributions from unions; Fritz says she won’t take money from corporations or from political action committees either, and limits individual donations to $50. “That’s an interesting stance for a union member to take,” Nolan told the Labor Press. “I believe unions ought to be able to pool their resources in order to improve their ability to influence political issues.”

Both candidates support public campaign finance, but say Portland’s Voter-Owned Elections system would need to be improved, and get voter approval, before returning.  Fritz is the only non-incumbent candidate elected using the system — which narrowly failed to win voter support in 2010. She says she hopes to bring it back in modified form by citizen initiative in 2014.

Neither candidate is gung ho about the Columbia River Crossing project in total, but both say there are pieces of it that should move forward, including a local access bridge to Hayden Island to reduce traffic along that stretch of I-5.

Fritz is also skeptical about the need for more industrial land on West Hayden Island, and suggested in some ways it would be better for such development to take place in Vancouver, where a jobs/housing imbalance contributes to commuter gridlock.

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