By Don McIntosh
Oregon’s biggest private sector union announced Nov. 15 that it will back a political newcomer for Oregon governor. Nicholas Kristof grew up in Yamhill, Oregon, spent the last 20 years writing for the New York Times, returned to Oregon in 2019, and announced a run for governor Oct. 27. The endorsement by 29,000-member United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 is his most significant so far.
Kristof, who has never run for public office before, is seeking the Democratic nomination in the May 17, 2022 primary election.
Also running as Democrats are state treasurer Tobias Read and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek, who’s been endorsed by the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council. At one time Kotek might have been favored to win Local 555’s endorsement as well, having helped pass priorities like the minimum wage increase, paid sick leave, and a law that requires fair scheduling practices at grocers and other large retailers. But in 2020 and 2021 Local 555 had zero success getting support from the governor or Legislature for its members who were on the front lines of the COVID epidemic. Gov. Kate Brown placed grocery workers dead last in line for immunization, after pregnant women and right before the general public. Local 555 asked Brown and legislative leaders to use federal COVID rescue funds to give bonuses to grocery workers, and to expedite workers’ comp claims for public-facing grocery workers if they contracted COVID, but got nowhere.
“Frankly our board felt, as I do, that it’s foolish to support the politicians who praised essential workers during the pandemic while neglecting necessary worker protections,” said Local 555 president Dan Clay in a press statement announcing the endorsement. Kristof spoke to Local 555’s Executive Board, and Clay said he articulated a bold vision as well as plans to make it a reality.
“We don’t need another four more years of the same policies that Kate Brown’s been pushing, and it’s the same people,” Local 555 spokesperson Miles Eschaia told the Labor Press.