2017 Oregon AFL-CIO convention report

BEND, Oregon — Representing unions from around Oregon, 213 delegates and 77 guests attended the biennial convention of the Oregon AFL-CIO Sept. 8-10 at the Riverhouse on the Deschutes convention center. Oregon AFL-CIO is the statewide federation that most of the state’s unions belong to. At its convention, delegates from each union approve policy.

REPORT FROM THE FRONT LINES OF THE ANTI-UNION FIGHT: Iowa AFSCME President Danny Homan holds up Iowa state workers’ new 26-page union contract. That’s what replaced their 256-page contract, after Republican state lawmakers stripped public employees of most of their collective bargaining rights. “I don’t want your pity,” Homan told delegates. “That’s not why I’m here. I’m here to tell you to get off your ass and get engaged and do the work so that this doesn’t happen here.”

This time, delegates voted to endorse Kate Brown for another term as Oregon governor, heard about legislative attacks on union rights in other states, and saluted Oregon unions, union volunteers, and legislators who were singled out for special honors [See below.]

The convention began with a Friday night welcome dinner at which the Oregon AFL-CIO distributed its scorecard for the 2017 Legislature  — and lauded state legislators Dan Rayfield, Arnie Roblan and James Manning for their contributions to workers’ rights.

On Saturday morning, Brown entered the convention hall to a standing ovation and addressed delegates. Before she left the room, a motion to endorse her reelection campaign passed on a near-unanimous voice vote. The general election is 14 months away, and Brown doesn’t expect to face a Democratic primary challenger. Bend State Rep. Knute Buehler is the only candidate seeking the Republican nomination so far. [Just before she entered the convention hall, Brown sat down for a 10-minute interview with the Labor Press, with her labor liaison Elana Guiney and communications director Chris Pair looking on.]

WAIT, ISN’T THAT SERGEANT FRANCO FROM THE TV SHOW GRIMM? Yes it is, and convention delegates greeted him with boos and heckling. Actor Robert Blanche — a local president of SAG-AFTRA — was pretending to be a representative of the anti-union Freedom Foundation, a group active in Washington and Oregon that sues unions and uses TV and radio ads and door-to-door canvassing to talk public employee union members into quitting their unions.

On Saturday and Sunday, delegates passed 18 resolutions setting policy, including four sponsored by the Coalition of Black Trade Unionists (CBTU), which had a robust presence at the convention. Some of them:

  • Defend Medicaid Opposing a ballot initiative that aims to overturn a new $670 million health care tax on Oregon hospitals and insurance companies. The tax will fund Medicaid for 350,000 Oregonians. Chief petitioner Julie Parrish has until Oct. 5 to gather about 59,000 signatures.
  • Immigration Opposing a ballot initiative that seeks to repeal a 1987 state law against using state and local resources to enforce federal immigration law
  • Celebrating LERC Saluting the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) on the occasion of its 40th anniversary, and urging its affiliates to support fundraising connected with an Oct. 11 celebration; and resolving to defend LERC vigorously against any efforts to reduce its funding

The convention also served as the public debut of a new group, Oregon Women Labor Leaders (OWLL), which seeks to promote women’s leadership in the local labor movement. A convention resolution supporting their effort passed unanimously. And delegates were invited to sign a pledge in which they promise to promote bargaining contract provisions about paid family leave, provision of child care and flexible work schedules, and recruit and support women to serve as union staff and elected leaders. As many as 150 labor union women have attended OWLL get togethers since a dozen women labor leaders first met in February. The group is getting together quarterly, with the next meeting scheduled for Oct. 16.

Eryn Byram of Labor’s Community Service Agency collected $1,000 from delegates to help union members harmed by recent Oregon forest fires.

Delegates twice took up collections for charity, raising $1,000 to help union members harmed by recent Oregon forest fires and another $1,000 to help DACA applicants pay the $495 application fee.

[MORE: More images from the convention here.]

[MORE: See excerpts from President Tom Chamberlain’s convention address here, or watch the speech in its entirety below.]



Oregon AFL-CIO president Tom Chamberlain and State Representative Dan Rayfield

Legislative honors

Legislator of the Year   State Rep. Dan Rayfield (D-Corvallis)

Union Defender Award   State Sen. Arnie Roblan (D-Coos Bay)

Rookie of the Year   State Sen. James Manning (D-Eugene)


Labor 2016 (Oregon AFL-CIO electoral effort)

Most volunteer shifts  Oregon AFSCME, ATU Local 757, IATSE Local 28, IBEW Local 48, Laborers Local 737, UFCW Local 555

Leadership in the workplace flier program  Shane Nehls from Iron Workers Local 29

Outstanding volunteer Zack Culver of Laborers Local 737

Outstanding participation in political program Rose Etta Venetucci of IATSE Local 28

Most active coalition outside the Portland metro area Southern Oregon Central Labor Chapter and Southern Oregon Strong Voice


Union organizing

Largest private sector organizing victory United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, for organizing 4,500 workers at Safeway/Albertsons

Largest public sector organizing victory AFT-Oregon, for organizing 800 graduate students at Portland State University

Long-term efforts on behalf of Instafab workers  Iron Workers District Council of the Pacific Northwest

Including part-time and seasonal workers in organizing efforts at the City of Portland  Laborers Local 483

LABOR UNITED AGAINST HATE: On Saturday, about 100 delegates took part in a brief rally just outside the convention center entrance to oppose racial hatred of the kind displayed at an Aug. 12 white nationalist rally in Charlottesville, Virginia; and also to condemn President Trump’s revocation of the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program. DACA is the program set up by President Obama under which law-abiding undocumented immigrants who were brought to the United States as children can apply for a work permit and indefinite deferral of deportation.

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