Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

March 7, 2003

ARLENE COLLINS, 66, a leader in the labor movement and the Democratic Party, died Feb. 21 in a Portland hospital of lupus, an immunity-suppressant degenerative disease that she was first afflicted with 14 years ago but was in remission from time to time.

She had been living in an adult foster home the past three years and was hospitalized in mid-February because of a lupus flare-up.

MRS. COLLINS had worked for the Multnomah County district attorney's office for four different DAs-George VanHoomissen, Des Connall, Harl Haas and current DA Mike Schrunk - from 1971 until her retirement in 1992. She started as a legal clerk and was promoted to legal assistant five years later upon earning a degree in the administration of justice by taking night classes at Portland State University.

She was active in Multnomah County Employees Local 88 throughout her employment in the Courthouse at 1021 SW Fourth Ave. in downtown Portland. Local 88 is an affiliate of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). She had served as Local 88's chief shop steward in the DA's office and was elected to several offices in her union, including recording secretary and president. She participated in contract negotiations and in handling grievances. She was a strike captain in Local 88's victorious 38-day walkout in 1981.

Collins and other Local 88 leaders conducted a long-running campaign that eventually tripled Local 88's membership. She also had been active in AFSCME's Oregon Council 75 and in the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, serving on the executive boards of both organizations.

MRS. COLLINS achieved the distinction of being the first woman to hold the office of first vice president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Traditionally, women unionists were allocated the office of second vp in the state labor federation, but Collins, who occupied that office when the first vice presidency opened up, ran for it and was elected in 1987. Two years later she ran for president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. After her retirement, she was active in the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council and held the presidency for several years until suffering a recurrence of lupus, which had been in remission. In the year 2000, the Retirees Council selected her for its Labor Hall of Fame.

She was proud of having been a member of an AFL-CIO delegation to Nicaragua and El Salvador in the mid-1980s. Her delegation presented funds to re-roof a school and dig a well for a village. The money had been donated by union members in the United States.

SHE WAS BORN in the Texas Panhandle city of Levelland on June 24, 1936 and went on to earn a degree in music education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She married Roland Mason and moved to North Carolina where she taught music to grade school pupils. In the early 1960s, in the John Kennedy-Lyndon Johnson years, she enlisted in the civil rights movement and registered black voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi, where three black civil rights volunteers were murdered by Ku Klux Klan adherents.

Later on, she taught music in San Rafael, Calif., and on the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean, After that, Arlene and Roland Mason and their children moved to Tacoma, where she left music education for a clerical job in the local office of Washington's attorney general. Within a few years Arlene and Roland were divorced and she relocated to Portland. In the Rose City, she met and married Gene Collins, a certified public accountant, who used his professional skills to help Arlene in her union and political activities.

"I'VE BEEN A DEMOCRAT all my life," Mrs. Collins told the Northwest Labor Press three years ago.

She'd been a Democratic precinct worker in southwest Portland, the party's state treasurer and its state vice chair. She was elected as a delegate to the Democratic National Convention in 2000 but did not attend the August event in Los Angeles because of an attack of lupus. In the late 1990s she worked at the Oregon Legislature in Salem as a legislative assistant to Democratic State Representative Dan Gardner, a member of Electrical Workers Local 48. He took office in January as the state labor commissioner, having been elected in 2002.

She took a special interest in improving the education of children through her elected membership on the Multnomah County Education Service District's Board of Directors. She was first elected in 1996. Marc Abrams, a member of the Portland School Board and Mrs. Collins' longtime colleague in the Democratic Party, said she "was particularly devoted" to Helensview High School for teenage mothers.

MRS. COLLINS' SURVIVORS include four daughters, Leah Oppenheimer, Julie Wiley, Kristina Townsend and Lorrie Severson; two sons. Tor Mason and Eric Mason; and nine grandchildren. Her husband. Gene Collins, preceded her in death in 1990.

A memorial service is scheduled for 2 p.m. Saturday, March 8, at New Hope Community Church, 11731 SE Stevens Road, which can be reached from the Sunnyside Exit off Interstate Highway 205.

Remembrances can be sent to Helensview High School, c/o Multnomah Education Service District Foundation, 11611 NE Ainsworth Circle, Portland OR 97220.


A CONTROVERSIAL RULING that "under God" should not be in the U.S. Pledge of Allegiance because it violates the constitutional separation of church and state has kept the U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals in the news. The San Francisco-based court's opinion is destined to be appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C.

An author of the 9th's majority opinion is Judge Alfred T. (Ted) Goodwin, who grew up as a cowboy in Oregon. Goodwin, who makes his home in California, served on the Oregon Supreme Court from 1960-69. He was appointed to the Salem-based court by then-Governor Mark Hatfield, a Republican. After Hatfield became a U.S. senator, he nominated Goodwin for the federal bench and Republican President Richard M. Nixon appointed him.

What most people don't know about Judge Goodwin is that he once was a card-carrying labor union member. Back in his days as a student at the University of Oregon, where he earned his law degree, Goodwin worked as a reporter for the Eugene Register-Guard and belonged to Eugene Newspaper Guild Local 194.

He started wearing a black robe as a Circuit Court judge serving Lane, Coos, Curry and Douglas counties. He lived in Eugene at that time.


WORDS FROM FRANKLIN DELANO ROOSEVELT represent an apt commentary on federal policies being espoused today in the White House in Washington, D.C.

Democrat FDR, elected president of the United States of America in 1932, 1936, 1940 and 1944, once said this:

"The test of our progress is not whether we add more to the abundance of those who have much; it is whether we provide enough for those who have too little."


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