BEND — At the Oregon AFL-CIO Convention, the national AFL-CIO was represented by Liz Shuler, AFL-CIO secretary-treasurer.
“It’s great to be home,” Shuler told convention delegates. Shuler is a native Oregonian who now works in Washington, D.C. In a plenary address, she shared her family’s personal story with convention delegates.
Her dad grew up in an orchard, living in a pickers shack with four siblings. At age 12, he was sandblasting tomb stones to make money. When he reached the age of majority, he joined the Marine Corps, and went to Vietnam. On return, he got a job as a hole-digger at the power company — Portland General Electric. It was there that a union — International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 125 — enabled him to earn a decent living. He was able to get into the union lineman apprenticeship program, buy a home, raise a family and retire.
Then the Enron fraud and bankruptcy destroyed his 401(k). Shuler teared up as she described her father and her family’s friends, linemen, lost their dream of a secure retirement.
“In one generation our family had built the American Dream, and it was ripped away,” Shuler said.