Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

February 16, 2001

ARLENE MAY BLACKWELL, whose skills and personality kept various Portland labor movement offices functioning smoothly for four decades, succumbed at age 80 on Jan. 24. She died of a heart attack at a convalescent center in Shelbyville, Tenn., where she had lived after suffering a series of strokes.

She had worked as a stenographer, secretary, bookkeeper and office manager for a number of labor organizations, including Machinists Organizing District 24, Millwrights Local 1857, Multnomah County Labor Council, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1092. She retired from Local 1092 in January 1985.

Before working in the labor movement she had been employed in the Portland office of the National Labor Relations Board. Earlier, she'd worked in the Harvard University research lab in Cambridge, Mass., where the sonar system was developed. In her student years she was an elevator operator at Meier & Frank's downtown store.

AS THE "GIRL FRIDAY" of the Machinists District 24 office, which then was in the old Steamfitters Building at Southwest Third and Columbia, she was a runner-up in a 1958 nationwide "Miss Union Secretary" contest sponsored by the Remington Rand office machine manufacturer. Its products carried the union label of the Machinists.

For 30 years Blackwell was a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11.

She was born in Portland on Sept. 5, 1920 as Arlene Brown. She graduated from Roosevelt High School in 1938 and earned a scholarship to Willamette University in Salem.

MUSIC PLAYED an important part in her life. Her instruments were the string bass and the tuba, and she also sang and whistled. In her student years she was a musician in the Portland Junior Symphony. Later she traveled in a women's band that accompanied the touring Ice Follies. While working in union offices she led all-women bands and combos that performed weekend gigs in the metro area. She belonged to Musicians Local 99 for more than 20 years and had been accorded life-member status by that union.

Blackwell enjoyed hiking in the great outdoors of the Pacific Northwest and she loved birds. Until her health problems developed several years ago, she maintained an aviary in her Washington County home that contained as many as 200 different species of birds.

Her first husband, Sam Stark, was a casualty of World War II. She later married and divorced Henry Puckett, and James Blackwell, who was a Machinists Grand Lodge representative.

SHE WAS ACTIVE in parent-teacher and citizens' groups in Washington County and was a deaconess and Sunday School teacher in the Cedar Hills Community Church. She later attended the Church of God in Aloha.

Her survivors include a daughter, Allison M. Santos; a son, Lindsey J. Puckett; and three grandchildren.

Her funeral was held Jan. 31 at Skyline Memorial Gardens & Funeral Home in northwest Portland followed by interment there.

Her family said memorial contributions can be sent to the Alzheimer's Association, 1311 NW 21st Ave., Portland, Ore. 97209, or to the Audubon Society, 5151 NW Cornell Rd., Portland 97229.


REPUBLICAN GEORGE W. BUSH seems to have forgotten that he received no mandate from the voters to make any major changes in the laws of the United States of America. He lost the national popular vote, and gained the White House only because of the grievously faulty election process in Florida, governed by his brother "Jeb," and also because he was anointed by a Republican majority on the U.S. not-so Supreme Court, some of whom were appointed by his father, a one-term president.

Ex-Texas Governor G.W. Bush wants to pay off his fat-cat campaign contributors with a huge reduction in their federal income taxes. He has in mind a cut in federal income taxes of $1.6 trillion. G.W. wants to emulate Republican President Ronald W. Reagan, whose wastrel tax cut in his first year, 1981, started plunging the nation into a sea of red ink and a recession. After eight years of Reagan and four of the senior Bush, George H.W., the U.S. deficit topped $3 trillion.

After eight years of Democrat William Jefferson Clinton's presidency, the Republican deficit was wiped out and replaced by a federal surplus. It is the Clinton surplus that Bush wants to drain down with an irresponsible tax cut.

ENRON BOSS Kenneth Lay of Houston, one of the ex-Tex. governor's biggest campaign contributors, will be one of the biggest personal beneficiaries of the Bush tax slash. The Enron Energy Corporation is the biggest wheeler-dealer in electrical power and in natural gas. Enron's 2000 revenue of $90 billion more than doubled its 1999 income, and 2001's swag may well double last year's. It was an Enron lawyer, James A. Baker III, who represented G.W. Bush in the post-election legal shenanigans that enabled the junior Bush to pocket a presidency that it could be argued he had not earned at the polls.

G. W. Bush, the appointed president, must have had the financial interests of his old patron, Enron's Lay, in mind when he dismissed the requests from Western governors for a federal role, including a price cap, in resolving the California power crisis that has become a regional crisis and threatens to spread eastward. Lay's Enron, you see, is the big profiteer in the California electric power shortage. Oregon's Fourth District U.S. Representative Peter DeFazio fingered Enron as the villain in a televised comment outside the Portland meeting of the Western governors earlier this month. Enron gained an Oregon connection by its 1997 purchase of the Portland General Electric Co., which now is in the process of being sold to Sierra Pacific.

STAY TUNED for more developments - until your power gets blacked out.


ELAINE L. CHAO, the Bush II Administration's secretary of labor, wants to promote her boss' s anti-worker scheme of letting states back out of any future increases in the federal minimum wage. States that would take advantage of that would be backward places like G.W. Bush's home state of Texas, VP Richard Cheney's former home state of Wyoming, Republican Senate boss Trent (Vacant) Lott' s Mississippi and its Old South neighbors.

Oregon and Washington are among the progressive states with a minimum wage higher than the federal level. The AFL-CIO federations in both states put minimum wage increases on the ballot and promoted their passage in the 1990s.

JARED BERNSTEIN, an economist with the Economic Policy Institute in Washington, D.C., sent this letter to newspapers about the Bush-Chao scheme:

"If we allow such a change, the states most likely to do so would be those with the largest share of low-wage workers. Those states have a much bigger incentive to opt out, lowering the earnings of thousands of workers who would now be out of reach of the federal policy.

"FURTHERMORE, the economy in low-wage states has shown no negative effects of the last minimum wage increase; to the contrary, the low-wage labor market has performed extremely well there. President Bush's idea would simply undermine a policy that has protected our lowest-paid workers since its introduction in 1938."

When President Franklin Delano Roosevelt persuaded Congress to enact a federal minimum 63 years ago, it was 25 cents an hour. Republicans with the mentality of Bush, Cheney, Lott and Chao opposed two-bits an hour, saying it would bankrupt employers.

FDR said employers who couldn't pay their employees a decent wage should not be in business.


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