Ellen Ino, a tenacious union volunteer and political campaigner, retired recently for health reasons. Ino, 55, has served the labor movement for decades, most recently as sergeant-at-arms of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, executive board member of Laborers Local 483, and as a longtime union steward at Oregon Zoo, where she worked as a ticket seller.
Ino grew up in Honolulu, and earned a degree in political science from Willamette University in Salem in 1987. She became a union activist in 1990 with Service Employees International Union Local 503 when she went to work for the University of Oregon library. It was there she got active politically with the Eugene Springfield Solidarity Network. At Local 503 she became chief steward and district director, and was tireless in registering fellow union members to vote.
In 2004, she moved to Portland and went to work at the Zoo, where she got involved in Local 483 and helped organize and win improvements for her fellow seasonal employees. After helping Amanda Fritz win her race for Portland City Council in 2008, Ino founded a political consulting firm, Forward Support, with her partner Jim Robison. The firm was meant to be an affordable way to help candidates get campaigns up and running, and Ino worked for numerous electoral campaigns.
She took early retirement after being hospitalized for anaphylactic shock on Sept. 30. Ino has a severe allergy to alcohol, and suffered a reaction at work after being exposed to the sanitizer that’s become everpresent in response to COVID-19.
Ino says if there’s one thing she learned in her activism, it’s that people don’t care what you know until they know that you care. Unionism, in other words, starts with caring for co-workers.