With John Kitzhaber’s resignation, Oregon Secretary of State Kate Brown becomes governor. Like her predecessor, she has a decades-long working relationship with organized labor.
“I’ve known her since the first day she went to the Legislature,” said Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain. Chamberlain was a lobbyist for the Fire Fighters Union when Brown entered the Oregon House as a state representative for Southeast Portland in 1991. She moved to the Senate in 1997 and served as Senate Majority Leader in the 2005 and 2007 sessions. She was elected secretary of state in 2008 and 2012.
In 2007, Brown helped pass laws allowing public employees to unionize by majority sign-up, granting state recognition to domestic partnership, and banning discrimination based on sexual orientation. She also helped pass laws giving nursing mothers the right to unpaid breaks for expressing milk; banning golden parachutes for top school officials; making safety a mandatory subject of bargaining for firefighters; and extending unemployment benefits to workers locked out in labor disputes. As secretary of state, she cracked down on initiative petitioner abuses, and touted the benefits elsewhere of Oregon’s vote-by-mail system.
“When we’ve needed her, she’s always been there,” Chamberlain said. “I believe she’s got a passion for poor folks falling through the cracks.”