Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

January 4, 2002

NOEL E. JOHNSON, 67, a retired executive secretary-treasurer of Portland-based Bakers Local 114, has been ushered into Labor's Hall of Fame by the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council. Johnson, who now lives in Woodland, Wash., was voted into the hall by the retirees at their meeting in the Northwest Oregon Labor Council's boardroom at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland.

Since Johnson's retirement a decade ago, Local 114 has expanded its scope; its name is now Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 114.

JOHNSON'S RETIREMENT in July 1992 ended a career that began 40 years earlier when he joined Local 114 as an employee of Stein's Bakery. He enlisted in the United States Army in 1953 and served until 1956. He was stationed at Fort Lewis, Wash., Fort Ord, Calif., and in Japan. He was a baker during part of his time in the Army.

"I asked for my job back at Stein's when I got out of the Army but they didn't need anyone so I went to work in a wire factory and then attended Portland State College," Johnson told the Northwest Labor Press. In the factory job he was a member of Iron Workers Shipmen's Local 516.

Johnson returned to the bakery trade in 1958 when he was hired at Keller's Bakery. After two years there he moved to the Wonder Bread Bakery where he worked for 12 years. "I did many different jobs while working for Wonder Bread," he recalled in an interview with the NW Labor Press.

HIS UNION SERVICE began when he became Local 114's first shop steward while at Wonder Bread. In 1972 he was elected a business agent of the union and held that post for 10 years. In 1982 he was elected secretary-treasurer of Local 114, which is the union's executive office. He retired from that job 10 years later.

In his 20 years as a full-time officer in Local 114, Johnson negotiated contracts and handled grievances for the union's members, who work in the Portland-Vancouver metropolitan area and throughout the state. For two decades he participated in the management of the Bakers Union Health & Welfare Trust Fund - for 10 years as a trustee and 10 as chairman. And he chaired the Bakers Apprenticeship Program.

Johnson was a founder and first president of the Bakers Pacific Northwest Joint Board, comprised of Bakers Union locals throughout the Northwest states. He served as vice president of the Western Conference of Bakers, covering many more states.

HE WAS A DELEGATE to both the Lane County Labor Council in the Eugene-Springfield area, and to the Multnomah County Labor Council in Portland and its successor, the Northwest Oregon Labor Council. For 20 years he was a delegate to Oregon AFL-CIO conventions. He was a delegate to the Bakery & Confectionery Workers International Union conventions from 1972 to 1992.

Johnson represented Local 114 at the Provision Trades Council, an organization of Portland food industry unions, including Teamsters when they were not affiliated with the AFL-CIO.

THE NEW HALL OF FAME member was a charter member of the Labor Advisory Committee of the Labor Education and Research Center at the University of Oregon in Eugene. LERC was established in the 1977 session of the Oregon Legislature at Salem.

After Johnson retired, he started the Bakers Local 114 Retirees Club and wrote its bylaws.

Johnson was born on Sept. 12, 1934 in Colfax in northeastern Wisconsin, into a family of nine sons and two daughters. The Johnson family moved to Ridgefield, Wash., north of Vancouver, where Noel's father operated a small grocery store. Later, they moved to Portland where the father owned a gas station.

NOEL AND HIS WIFE, the former Nancy Lee Wiedmann, who is from North Dakota, were married Sept. 1, 1953. Nancy at one time worked at Franz Bakery in Portland as a member of Local 114. The Johnsons have three daughters and a son, plus six grandchildren, two of whom are students at Oregon State University in Corvallis. Their son, David, works at the Fred Meyer Bakery in Clackamas, and is a member of Local 114. Daughter Carolyn Johnson-Bell is an artist whose work has been featured on Oregon Public Broadcasting's television program Oregon Art Beat. Her Web site is http://johnson-bell.com/ Daughter Kathy Schreiber is a real estate agent who formerly worked in jobs where she was a member of Local 114 and also Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11. Daughter Susan Cameron works for Multnomah County and is a member of County Employees Local 88. Until shortly before Noel's retirement, his family lived for many years in a home at Northeast 22nd Avenue and Ainsworth Boulevard in Portland.

In 1990 the Johnsons moved to a home in Woodland, Wash., on the North Fork of the Lewis River. Their residence, named "Owlsperch," is about half-way between Vancouver and Kelso. They picked the location because it's where Noel went fishing for many years while they were living in Portland. Now he can go fishing without the commute. To visit the "Owlsperch," log on to http://www.lewisriver.com/owlsperch_index.html

"THE FIRST FEW YEARS of retirement I spent enjoying and improving our yard and garden," Johnson told the Labor Press. "In 1999 I bought a computer. Since then, with the help of Webmasters, I have created several Web sites. This has led to my involvement in community activities and tourism events of all kinds. It is very exciting, and Nancy and I have met many new people. I have received awards for tourism promotion from the Woodland Chamber of Commerce and the Cowlitz County Department of Tourism." Johnson said tourist attractions in the area and nearby include Mount St. Helens, Mount Adams, North Fork Lewis River Valley, three magnificent waterfalls, bicycle pedaling through the Gifford Pinchot National Forest, Cedar Creek grist mill, Hulda Klager Lilac Gardens,Woodland Planter's Days, Woodland Harvest Festival plus art museums, bed and breakfasts, fishing, and other points of interest. Web site:


"Nancy has been enjoying herself by creating magnificent quilts and sewing decorator potholders that we sell at holiday bazaars," said Johnson. "We are both in excellent health and are enjoying each day to the fullest," he added.


FROM LABOR NOTES, published in Detroit, Mich., comes this report:

"Raise the Floor: Wages and Policies That Work For All of Us is the centerpiece of a campaign by the Ms. Foundation for Women and a dozen other organizations to increase the minimum wage to a more realistic level. The minimum wage used to be enough to lift a family of three with one full-time worker above the poverty line, the campaign points out. But the current $5. l 5 an hour federal minimum won't even put one full-time worker with a child above the poverty line. The 246-page book, by Holly Sklar, Laryssa Mykyta and Susan Wefald, contains both real-life stories and new research on how much income is needed to meet a family's basic needs. The campaign suggests that the minimum hourly wage should be at least $8. Adjusted for inflation, that's what the minimum wage was in 1968. The campaign also suggests other policy changes in areas such as housing and health care that help would eliminate poverty. Order the book for $9.95 plus $4 shipping from: Ms. Foundation for Women, 120 Wall St., 33rd Floor, New York NY 10005..."


IN THE COVERAGE last month of the 60th anniversary of Japan's sneak attack on Dec. 7, 1941 against the United States Naval Base at Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, a number of stories on television and in newspapers failed to identify the attacking nation. Perhaps because Japan is now a friendly nation and a trading partner, some media minds decided it would not be politically correct to mention that it was Japan that did the attacking on Pearl Harbor. Or maybe the media minds who gave Japan a pass have such a shaky grip on American history that they didn't remember that Imperial Japan was a World War II Axis nation along with Hitler's Nazi Germany and Mussolini's Fascist Italy.


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