Laborers’ Ben Nelson new Oregon AFL-CIO organizer

The Oregon AFL-CIO has hired seasoned union organizer Ben Nelson to lead its effort to help affiliates organize nonunion workplaces.

Ben Nelson
Ben Nelson

Nelson, 38, started work at the state labor federation Nov. 23, following a 15-year career with the Laborers Union. He fills a vacancy created in September when lead organizer Chris Hewitt went to work for Oregon Nurses Association.

Nelson was most recently the business manager of Laborers Local 737, which was formed Sept. 21 from the merger of Laborers locals 121, 296, and 320. But the newly-created local remains under the supervision of the international union, which removed Nelson as business manager on Oct. 28. For now, the local will be under the direction of supervisor Bob Abbott and assistant supervisor Zack Culver.

For Nelson, the new position is a return: in 1999, newly graduated from Willamette University with a degree in political science, he worked at the Oregon AFL-CIO as an intern under then-president Irv Fletcher. Nelson then went through the national AFL-CIO’s Organizing Institute training program, and spent time in Montana helping the hotel union HERE as an underground union organizer, or “salt.”

In May 2000 he was hired as an organizer by Laborers Local 483 business manager Jim McEchron, and in 2003 he went to work organizing construction workers with the Laborers Northwest Organizing Fund. In 2013 he was appointed assistant business manager of the Washington and Northern Idaho District Council of Laborers.

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