By Graham Trainor, Oregon AFL-CIO president
With workers across the economy bravely standing up for fairness, 2022 is shaping up to be an exciting year for workers and the labor movement. Add to that one of the most significant elections for working Oregonians on the upcoming May ballot—the race for Oregon’s labor commissioner—and the stakes for 2022 become even clearer.
Fun fact: While all 50 states have a labor commissioner overseeing the administration of state labor laws, Oregon is one of just four states where voters directly elect a labor commissioner through a nonpartisan election process.
Why does the labor commissioner matter to Oregon workers?
Oregon’s labor commissioner enforces state laws that touch every working family, including housing protections, wages, hours of employment, prevailing wage, child labor, and discrimination and harassment. The commissioner also oversees registered apprenticeship programs. Previous and current labor commissioners in Oregon led the creation of one of the first state family and medical leave laws in the country, issued high-profile penalties when businesses ran afoul of our state’s civil rights protections, and spearheaded the first Wage Security Fund in the country (which pays unpaid wages to workers left jobless by business closures).
Clearly there’s a lot at stake for working people in this race.
Every election season, Oregon union members spend countless hours reviewing the experience of those running for office, interviewing candidates to understand where they stand on issues that matter to working people. Our movement supports those candidates who are committed to being champions for OUR issues, the issues that matter to the working class.
That’s why it is so exciting that there is such an unflinching champion for working people running for Oregon labor commissioner—Christina Stephenson. As a civil rights and employment lawyer, Christina goes to work everyday fighting for the underdog. It’s rare that the electorate and Oregon’s unions have the chance to elect someone who has dedicated their life to making Oregon the best place to work. Christina has been in the trenches for years with Oregon’s unions, helping craft and pass key pro-worker legislation in Salem. She’s taken on high-profile legal cases at her small law firm for workers, and won. She’s also a working mother juggling family and professional obligations. She has a pro-worker vision for the Bureau of Labor Industries (the state agency led by Oregon’s labor commissioner).
The Oregon labor movement is all in for Christina. So are the last five Oregon labor commissioners (from both parties), U.S. Senator Jeff Merkley, former Governor Barbara Roberts, and an incredible list of elected officials, community leaders, and advocacy organizations. They all know, like we know in the labor movement, that the stakes are too high to not support Christina Stephenson. A complete list of Christina’s endorsements can be found on her website at christinastephenson.com.
Oregon workers need a champion as our next labor commissioner, and that champion is Christina Stephenson. Make sure to fill out and return your ballot as soon as you receive it for the May 17 Oregon primary.
Working people in every corner of the state are counting on it.
The Oregon AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions.