By GRAHAM TRAINOR, Oregon AFL-CIO president
On January 17, Oregon lawmakers kicked off a five and a half month legislative session in Salem. Progress on key labor priorities is already in full swing. After three of the longest years of our lives, and several virtual legislative sessions, Oregon workers are geared up to make real progress during this in-person session.
While much of the national mainstream media has been focused on record job growth, consistently low unemployment, and the positive impacts of the Biden economic plan, here in Oregon the picture for working people isn’t quite that rosy. In fact, immense challenges face our state—from housing and homelessness to mental health and addiction, to the need to improve our schools and outcomes for our children. And although the pandemic no longer has a complete grip on our lives, stubborn trends of understaffing, forced overtime, and dangerous workplaces delay much sense of a worker-centered recovery after three years of disruption and danger.
That’s why throughout the 2023 legislative session, the Oregon labor movement will focus on ensuring that lawmakers continue our state’s work to recover from the pandemic and to support us in the challenges we face in today’s economy.
Despite a challenging state budget environment, expectations are high for Oregon’s pro-worker majorities and leadership in the House and Senate. When Oxfam America released their “Best and Worst States to Work in America’’ report last year with Oregon at the top, it wasn’t just a coincidence. By looking at wage policies, worker protections, and our rights to organize, they concluded that, despite the difficult work still ahead, Oregon was at the front of the pack. Only after more than a decade of progress made, nation-leading policies passed, consistent pro-worker majorities in the legislature, and year-round advocacy by working people was this even possible. As the pace and intensity of the session picks up, Oregon labor will be there every step of the way to continue to make gains because we know that our movement is often the only line of defense for the working class.
That’s why the 2023 Oregon AFL-CIO legislative agenda includes a robust set of policies aimed at doing just that. You can learn more about the Oregon Labor Movement’s agenda by visiting oraflcio.org/legislativepriorities. You’ll see policies aimed at growing our movement, and ensuring that state investments in transportation and clean energy have strong labor standards. You’ll see efforts to address an overburdened healthcare workforce, policies to make Oregon workplaces safer, and bills focused on making Oregon a more inclusive state for all workers, to name just a few.
Between now and June, lawmakers have an opportunity, and an obligation, to deliver on many of these policies if we are to continue to make progress towards our shared vision—one where Oregon’s economy is fair and just for ALL working people. The Oregon labor movement stands united in our mission to make this the best state for working people, and our 2023 legislative priorities are a central component to that work. With a guiding value of solidarity, working people and our movement will never stop the march towards a brighter future, and we look forward to partnering with lawmakers in the coming months to deliver on this worker-centered agenda.
The Oregon AFL-CIO is a federation of labor unions.