By MALLORY GRUBEN
Come September, the University of Oregon Labor Education and Research Center (LERC) will be fully staffed for the first time since 2020. The addition of two new staff means LERC can expand its reach of research and trainings, said LERC Co-Director Gordon Lafer.
Rebekah Whittaker joined LERC’s faculty in August 2022 as a career instructor based in the Eugene office. Before LERC, Whittaker spent seven years as a fourth grade teacher and was an active member of the Eugene Education Association teachers union. She also spent 10 years on staff at Service Employees International Union (SEIU), first as an organizer with Local 250 in Oakland, California, and later as an organizer, union representative, and negotiator for Local 503 in Oregon. Her union work focused on nursing home workers and childcare providers.
Whittaker has a masters degree in education with an emphasis in curriculum and teaching from the University of Oregon.
The youngest of seven kids, she comes from a union family in that her dad was president of his letter carriers local in Eugene, and her sister Teresa Tobin is organizing director of SEIU Healthcare 1199NW in Washington.
Janet Bauer will start as a research associate in September. Based in the Portland office, she’ll provide consulting and research assistance for unions that ask for information about bargaining strategies, industry trends, or economic issues. Her research will also inform public policy, including the state’s transition to clean energy by 2040, Lafer said. LERC is currently researching strategies to keep wind and solar jobs local, he said, and Bauer can help with that project. She also wants to explore wage theft and the childcare industry, though her focus may shift depending on what unions and lawmakers ask to learn more about.
Bauer has a masters degree in urban studies from Portland State University, and comes to LERC after 18 years as a researcher with the Oregon Center for Public Policy, a nonprofit research organization that analyzes tax, budget, and economic issues. She currently serves as the group’s director of policy research.