A betrayal of Oregon workers


Oregon is known for being a leader in many ways. The first state to declare Labor Day as a public holiday. The protection of our beautiful coastline and beaches as a public good. The nation’s first bottle bill.

Unfortunately, over the last few years a different statistic has come to the forefront, culminating with the 2023 Oregon Legislature: the most legislative walkouts and the second-longest walkout in American history.

Oregon has seen an enormous uptick in walkouts, with six just since 2019. Oregon voters weighed in on the issue in 2022 when they overwhelmingly passed Measure 113 to change the Oregon Constitution and disqualify legislators from reelection if they have at least 10 unexcused absences. The measure passed with over 68% of the statewide vote. Voters in 34 of Oregon’s 36 counties voted in favor of the measure, including communities that state senate Republicans who have led these walkouts represent. When working people don’t show up to work, we don’t get paid, and we can lose our job. Voters sent a clear message that lawmakers need to show up and do their job, just like us.

In spite of the will of Oregon voters, 2023 was no different. And while the narrative used by Oregon Senate Republicans to justify their recent 42-day walkout focused around issues of abortion, guns, and gender-affirming health care, working people saw it for what it was: a betrayal, and an affront to our democracy. Just think about this for a moment: For 42 days, our legislature could not function. Just about every issue important to Oregonians— housing, homelessness, workers’ rights and safety, healthcare justice, education — was held hostage by the very people entrusted by their constituents to show up and do their jobs.

And while the latest walkout ended in time for critical bills to pass, the impact of this betrayal is still being felt.

Even the will of the voters didn’t stop Oregon Senate Republicans who exceeded 10 absences during the 2023 Oregon Legislature from preparing to run for office and challenge Measure 113. This shows that they do not have regard for Oregon voters’ voices and working people’s priorities.

To working people who overwhelmingly voted for the measure in 2022, our intent was clear: When politicians refuse to show up to work, they are held accountable. And while the courts will ultimately decide any challenge to the measure, we appreciated the clarity provided by the Oregon Secretary of State earlier in August when she announced that lawmakers who had more than 10 unexcused absences were supposed to be disqualified from being re-elected for the following term, saying that “honors the voters’ intent by enforcing the measure the way it was commonly understood when Oregonians added it to our Constitution.”

At a time when polarization and political disagreement have reached a fever pitch, the last thing we need is more gridlock and dysfunction in the halls of our state capitol. We must build trust and confidence in our public institutions, and if 2022 was any indication, Oregonians expect their elected leaders to show up, do their jobs, take votes, and engage in the rigorous debate that moves us forward. These expectations don’t preclude dissent or heated debate. They just say that if you consistently don’t show up to do the job we’ve elected you to do, then there will be consequences. Working people don’t soon forget betrayals, and we will never stop fighting for a stronger democracy.



  1. Hi Graham,

    I would like to know more about this ‘rigorous debate’ you describe in your opinion piece. From all that I have heard the Senate President told the R’s that the two primary bills that caused the kerfuffle were NOT up for debate. He said ‘we have the votes and there is nothing you can do about it, so move on to something else’ (paraphrasing). That does not sound like rigorous debate, any more than walking out sounds like rigorous debate. I think you should be more equitable in your assessment instead of fueling the polarized rhetoric that you say you are against. It is just not true, no matter how many times you say it. Just as our former US President is finding out now.

  2. What the article conveniently failed to mention is the number of legislative walkouts Democrats conducted — in 1971, 1997, and 2001.
    I guess it’s only newsworthy when Republicans play the exact same game to their advantage.


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