UFCW Local 555 takes aim at a top Oregon Democrat


CLASHING HOLVEYS RecallPaulHolvey.com says Paul Holvey does the bidding of big business. But on PaulHolvey.com (below), supporters like retired labor educator Bob Bussel paint him as one of the strongest pro-worker legislators in Oregon’s history.


Oregon’s biggest private sector union is in the final weeks of a four-month fight to remove a longtime labor ally in the Oregon House.

Democrat Paul Holvey has been state representative for House District 8 in Eugene since 2004 and is currently chair of the Oregon House Committee on Business and Labor. He’s also a retired union carpenter and worked as a union rep with the United Brotherhood of Carpenters. His name and fingerprints are on almost all the most important labor legislation of the last decade, including the minimum wage increase and Oregon’s sick leave mandate.

But on May 22, United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 555 announced an effort to recall him. Using paid petitioners, they gathered enough signatures by the Aug. 21 deadline to trigger an Oct. 3 special recall election.

Local 555, whose members mostly work in grocery stores, is the recall campaign’s sole financial backer. The recall petition is in the name of Nathan Erne, a Local 555 member at Albertson’s who lives in Holvey’s district.

Holvey has abandoned working families, says the recall campaign’s website, voter statement, and full-page ads in the Eugene Register-Guard. Campaign materials blame Holvey for a 2019 cut to public employee retirement system (PERS) contributions and fault him for taking campaign contributions from big business groups. He also played a role in killing Local 555’s top priority bill this year.

But in campaigning to oust Holvey, Local 555 is on its own. At least 14 other labor organizations are endorsing Holvey’s campaign to beat the recall, and seven of those have contributed a total of $34,000 since Local 555 launched its recall effort.

“I don’t believe I should be recalled,” Holvey told the Labor Press by phone. “I feel like I’ve been doing a pretty good job at representing my district and representing labor, and this is just a little unhinged from my point of view.”

Holvey says until recently he was in Local 555’s good graces. He was a chief sponsor of the 2017 law that requires large retail employers like Fred Meyer to give workers their schedules two weeks in advance and pay for last minute schedule changes. A plaque honoring him for his work on that bill, signed by Local 555 president Dan Clay, hangs on his office wall.

As for the 2019 PERS cut, Holvey said it was one of the most painful decisions he’s made, but it was part of a grand compromise that included billions of new business revenue for schools. He says Local 555 didn’t make an issue of the PERS cut at the time and endorsed his reelection campaign the following year. In fact, none of the public employee unions that fought the PERS cut support Holvey’s recall, and one of them, Oregon State Fire Fighters Council, has donated to his campaign to beat the recall. The state’s largest public employee union, SEIU Local 503, is also endorsing his campaign.

“I’ll be frank. We have not tried to put a coalition together on this,” said Mike Selvaggio, a contract lobbyist who serves as Local 555’s political director. “We were very clear early on amongst ourselves that if we were going to do this, we were gonna have to be ready to do it alone.”

Cannabis workers rights

Selvaggio confirmed that Local 555’s number one grievance against Holvey is how he handled House Bill 3183 this year. HB 3183, dubbed the Cannabis Workers Rights bill by Local 555, would have required cannabis businesses to sign “labor peace agreements” to obtain or renew their licenses to operate. Local 555 has tried to organize cannabis workers since 2015 with little success. Under the labor peace agreement, as defined by the bill, cannabis businesses would give union organizers access to their employees, and in return the union would commit to refrain from strikes, boycotts, or other economic interference to resolve a labor dispute. HB 3183 was sponsored by state representatives Ben Bowman and Dacia Grayber and State Senator Chris Gorsek explicitly at Local 555’s request, and it was the union’s top priority in the 2023 legislative session. It’s also a priority for the UFCW international, which has worked to pass similar bills elsewhere and flew a representative out from Washington, D.C., to testify.

Though Holvey himself didn’t kill the bill, Local 555 holds him responsible for its failure. After HB 3183 was assigned to Holvey’s committee, he held a Feb. 27 hearing on it. At the hearing, business groups testified that the bill would be struck down by federal courts. Holvey says he had that concern as well.

“With my background, I was very concerned that this really wasn’t compliant with federal law, specifically, the National Labor Relations Act,” Holvey said. “The state can’t take rights away from employees or employers under that act that are federally protected.”

Holvey asked attorneys for the legislature to look into whether HB 3183 would be upheld in the event of a federal court challenge. At a March 29 committee work session, Holvey led a party-line vote to refer HB 3183 to the Rules Committee, without recommendation as to passage. Referring a bill to another committee without passage is a kiss of death, Selvaggio said, based on his study of legislative past practice.

When the legislative counsel came back with its response April 13, Holvey shared that information with other legislators: Yes, the bill would be preempted, the lawyers said. They referred to a 1959 U.S. Supreme Court case known as Garmon. In that case, the court ruled that states are barred by the U.S. Constitution’s supremacy clause from regulating conduct that the National Labor Relations Act protects or prohibits. Rules Committee Chair and fellow Eugene Democrat Julie Fahey cited that legal opinion at a May 11 Rules Committee hearing on the bill and announced the bill would not be moving forward.

A full-page newspaper ad in the Sept. 3 issue of the Eugene Register-Guard — paid for by Local 555 — suggests that Holvey’s opposition to the bill was a result of cannabis industry contributions to Democrats.

Holvey says that had nothing to do with it. But he admitted to the Labor Press he wasn’t upfront with Local 555: He told them about his preemption concerns, but says the truth is he thought it was a bad bill.

“It just didn’t seem like it was the right thing to do,” Holvey said. “When you get down to it, they had a labor agreement proposal that gave away the concerted activity rights of employees: the right to strike, the right to picket, the right to boycott, and the right to have any economic impact on the business activity. And what they were getting in return for that was neutrality in the union being able to have conversations with those employees. And I’m thinking to myself, well, that seems like an interesting labor peace agreement, because how are they ever going to get a contract even if they unionize?”

Responding to Holvey’s preemption concerns in written and oral testimony, Local 555 representatives pointed out that near-identical laws have been on the books for years — without any court challenges. That first part, at least, remains true: Starting with California in 2018, laws  requiring cannabis licensees to sign labor peace agreements have passed in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, Illinois, Virginia, Rhode Island, and Connecticut. But on July 10, the first challenge to such a law was filed in federal court, in Rhode Island, along exactly the lines Oregon’s legislative counsel laid out — that stripping employers of their right to oppose unions and workers of their right to strike is unconstitutional under the Supreme Court’s Garmon preemption doctrine.

On June 12, Local 555 filed a prospective initiative petition along the same lines as HB 3183, aimed at the November 2024 ballot. The part about giving up the right to strike and boycott has been removed.

Bad blood with the Dems

Though the death of its cannabis bill was Local 555’s immediate motivation, the effort to recall Holvey comes in a larger context of deteriorating relations between the union and Oregon’s Democratic leadership. As speaker pro tem, Holvey steps in when the House speaker is unavailable, making him part of that leadership.

From 2015 to 2017, Local 555 was a big player in a string of wins in the Oregon Legislature, including the 2015 paid sick leave law, the 2016 minimum wage law, and the 2017 fair scheduling law. But in the last few years, Local 555 has had a tough time getting its proposed legislation passed.

When COVID hit in March 2020, grocery workers — the majority of Local 555 members — were exposed to the virus as frontline workers. But Local 555 couldn’t get any help out of the Democratic-led legislature and governor’s office. Local 555 pushed for a rule that if a grocery worker got COVID, it would be presumed they got it at work so they could collect workers compensation; it went nowhere. With tens of millions of federal relief money coming in to be spent at states’ discretion, Local 555 asked lawmakers to set up a program of hazard pay for grocery workers; it was rejected. Local 555’s frustration with Oregon’s Democratic leadership played out in 2022 when it was the only union to reject Tina Kotek and endorse New York Times columnist Nick Kristof in his short-lived campaign for governor.

“We can’t play the same game that we’ve always been playing,” Selvaggio said. “Because look what happened: Our members kept on getting pushed to the back of the line.”

Campaign’s final sprint

At the Lane County Central Labor Chapter Labor Day picnic, many local elected leaders used their moment at the mic to urge a vote for Holvey, and Holvey was warmly received by union members.

“This was an improper use of the recall,” Jeff McGillivray, a Eugene business rep for Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 and president of the Lane County Central Labor Chapter. “Paul’s been a strong friend of labor,” McGillivray said. “He’s one of the few legislative folks who actually came from swinging a hammer out in the field, all the way into the legislature.”

The Lane County Labor Chapter itself hasn’t taken a formal position; it’s an arm of the Oregon AFL-CIO, which hasn’t weighed in either. But Local 290 is one of the 14 labor organizations backing Holvey.

The recall campaign is now in its final stage. Ballots will be mailed out to registered voters in House District 8 on Sept. 15 and are due Oct. 3. Both sides are campaigning hard.

Selvaggio says Local 555 may end up spending around $300,000 to recall Holvey before all is said and done, though much of that paid for signature gatherers to trigger the recall. Holvey, meanwhile, has raised $154,500 since the recall effort began, including the $34,000 from labor organizations, as well as about $100,000 from Nike, Kroger, and business groups representing the pharmaceutical, beverage, grocery, health care, hospital, car dealers, and restaurant industries. At least 17 of Holvey’s fellow state legislators have also contributed $1,000 or more from their own campaign funds to support Holvey.

The recall may actually be Holvey’s first serious challenge. He was appointed to the seat by Lane County Commissioners in January 2004, and has easily won reelection in solidly Democratic Eugene. Last November, he won reelection with 85% of the vote. In the next two weeks, his constituents will decide whether they still want him.


  • Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757
  • Eugene Education Association
  • Ironworkers Local 29
  • Lane Community College Education Association
  • Lane Professional Fire Fighters (IAFF Local 851)
  • Oregon AFSCME
  • Oregon and Southern Idaho District Council of Laborers
  • Oregon Building Trades Council
  • Oregon Coalition of Police and Sheriffs
  • Oregon Nurses Association
  • SEIU Local 503
  • Southwest Carpenters Regional Council
  • Teamsters Joint Council 37
  • United Association of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290


  1. I am the Political Officer for LCCEF/AFT Local 2417–Lane Community College Employee Federation, the classified professionals union at LCC. Please add LCCEF to the list of Paul Holvey backers. We added our name to his endorsement list immediately after he asked us to at a meeting for local labor leaders held by Labor Chapter.
    This “hit campaign”, as well as the “cannibas workers” bills that UCFW is pushing in not only Oregon but other states seems like a way to weaken unions before they start, by preventing unions from organizing a strike if employers refuse to bargain fairly.

    However, Paul did not “kill” the bill. He moved it out of his committee,because the requested legal assessment of the bill had not yet been completed at the time his committee was completing their work. The bill remained open until the end of the legislative session.
    He also suggested to UCFW certain changes to the bill that would not make it problematic at the federal level. Those changes were never made.
    EVERY other union local in Paul Holvey’s district is backing Paul.
    Are ALL the other unions’ leadership just “stupid”? NO!!!

    Back Paul Holvey! Vote NO on the recall!


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