Frank Jackson, 1937-2024


Frank Jackson, a longtime Lane County labor leader who helped pass Oregon’s Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act (PECBA), died Feb. 22, 2024. He was 87. 

Jackson was born Jan. 21, 1937, in Beaumont, Texas, and moved to Oregon with his father at age 5 after his mother died. Jackson graduated from Willamette High School in Eugene and joined his first union, a Lumber and Sawmill Workers local in Junction City, in 1955. He remained a union member for the rest of his working career. Most of his time was spent as a Eugene firefighter represented by Fire Fighters Local 851; he worked for the fire department from 1960 to 1992. 

Jackson was elected secretary-treasurer of Local 851 when he was 23. He later served as president for 25 years. Jackson also served as district vice president of the Oregon State Council of Fire Fighters.

He used his union roles to advocate for pro-labor legislation for firefighters, police, and other public employees. In 1973, he was part of the labor coalition that supported PECBA, the landmark bill that granted bargaining rights to Oregon’s public employees, and the story goes that Jackson would drive to Salem from Eugene every day after work to lobby for the bill in the Capitol, and even slept overnight in his car so he wouldn’t miss hearings. 

Even before public employees’ bargaining rights were enshrined in state law, Jackson helped pass an initiative in Eugene in 1970 to require collective bargaining and “compulsory binding arbitration” to resolve impasses. The city became one of the first jurisdictions to use binding arbitration. 

“He was a person who stood at the front of the room to say, ‘This is the only way we will be able to take care of our profession in the state of Oregon,’” said Karl Koenig, current president of the Oregon State Council of Fire Fighters. “There’s no way I could have retired without collective bargaining. None of us could have. The ability to meet and have third party adjudication for public safety totally changed the landscape for us … and Frank is the rockstar who helped pave the way for that.” 

Jackson also sat on the Oregon AFL-CIO executive board and served as president of the Lane County Labor Council for 22 years and as its executive secretary-treasurer for eight. He retired from the labor council in 1998 but stayed active as a lobbyist, mostly for public employee retirement benefits.

Colleagues say Jackson was a loyal, no bullshit, hardworking man who had no qualms about standing up for fellow firefighters and unionists. Pat Riggs-Henson, who served as president of the Lane County Labor Council immediately after Jackson, said he once shared a story about a bargaining session where managers told Jackson the firefighters didn’t need high-end dental coverage, so he took out his own dentures and threw them across the table to make a point. 


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