All but one of Oregon’s 11 autonomous Central Labor Councils (CLCs) were dissolved as of July 1 and converted to chapters of the state AFL-CIO. The restructuring follows a process initiated by national AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka earlier this year. Under that process, CLCs with less than $200,000 a year of income are supposed to merge, become area labor federations, or become chapters of their state federation.
CLCs are local councils made up of local unions affiliated with the AFL-CIO. The national AFL-CIO has been looking at ways to increase their effectiveness and accountability. Below $200,000, a CLC would be considered too small to have staff or run an effective program. As many as 400 CLCs nationwide are below that amount, while about 50 are above it.
In Oregon — one of 10 states that are making the change this year — Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC) was the only CLC above that threshold. Oregon’s other CLCs relied on volunteers, and some met very infrequently. Some were much more active in their heyday, when Oregon’s less populous regions had more unionized timber and manufacturing workers.
The decision by the national AFL-CIO to pull the Oregon CLC charters was made by a committee of national union presidents, in consultation with a 12-person committee of state labor leaders. To enable staff support for the new chapters, the in-state committee is recommending that the October 2015 Oregon AFL-CIO convention approve an increase in the per capita dues that affiliated unions pay. Where formerly some affiliates paid dues to some CLCs, all state-level affiliates would contribute under the proposal. The increase would provide permanent funding for staff to support the new local chapters: a half-time staffer in Bend to serve the Central and Eastern Oregon chapters, a half-time staffer in Medford who will also serve Klamath Falls, and a full-time staffer in Eugene who will also serve Salem, Albany, and Coos Bay. A portion of the new funds would also go directly to the chapters.
The staff members will facilitate strategic planning and budgeting for the chapters, and help the chapters run a political program during election season. They’ll also support the state federation’s Oregon Strong Voice tables — semi-formal coalitions of local community and labor groups.
Two of the three positions have been filled. Both Phil Carrasco (the Eugene staff person) and Shaun Franks (the Medford staff person) have worked for the Oregon AFL-CIO since late 2014. Applicants are currently being screened for the Bend position.