By DON McINTOSH
Oregon Congressman Kurt Schrader, who the AFL-CIO reports has one of the worst labor records of any Democrat in Congress, is starting to see unions get behind his challenger in Oregon’s May 2022 Democratic primary for the 5th Congressional District. United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, which represents 24,000 grocery and other workers, was the first to endorse Jamie McLeod-Skinner’s campaign for Congress. Now Oregon Education Association (OEA), the 41,000-member teachers union, is also supporting her campaign, after a truly overwhelming 93% vote by delegates to the union’s political action committee.
The OEA action comes as a recommendation to its parent organization, the National Education Association. NEA is likely to make a decision when its political committee meets in April about whether to back McLeod-Skinner, Schrader, or remain neutral. NEA gives Schrader an “A” rating for strictly educational policy votes, but Schrader has often tangled with labor on basic workers rights issues in recent years, and last year he helped kill a proposal to let Medicare negotiate better drug prices for seniors.
Two years ago—after Schrader voted against the PRO Act, a bill in Congress to make it easier to unionize—five unions backed a primary challenge by Milwaukie mayor Mark Gamba against him. But Gamba lost by more than two to one. Schrader voted for the PRO Act when it came up again in the House in 2021. This year, Gamba is endorsing McLeod-Skinner. Since 2020, redistricting has made the district more favorable terrain for progressives.