Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

May 4, 2001

GENERAL STRIKE, the Rose City's exciting labor song group, celebrated its 14th birthday early by using May Day - Tuesday, May 1 - to make available to the public its first compact disc. The event was held Tuesday night at the Service Employees Local 49 Hall at 3536 SE 26th Ave., Portland. General Strike's fans paid a $3 donation for an admission fee and bought the CD for $12.

Music on the CD includes a mix of original songs by General Strike musicians Jay Russo and Howard Rotstein plus traditional Wobbly tunes and other labor melodies. Russo is a retired president and chief negotiator of the Clackamas County Education Association. Rotstein is a jobsite steward of Service Employees Local 503, the Oregon Public Employees Union.

General Strike was formed in Portland in July 1987. Its nom de plume back then was Singers of Solidarity, but that soon changed to its current name. Another antecedent was a Salem group called Fan the Flames, from whence came Russo, who sings and plays the guitar, harmonica and drums; and Rotstein, who sings and strums the mandolin and guitar.

GENERAL STRIKERS also include Jim Cook, on vocals and bass; Per Fagereng, vocals and drums; Deborah Lee, vocals; Mary Rose, vocals and guitar, Mike Schall, vocals and several instruments; and Laura Webb, vocals and the recorder, a wind flute.

Cook is president of the Letter Carriers Portland Branch 82 and chairs the Northwest Oregon Labor Council's Labor History Committee. Others belong or have belonged to unions. The not-for-profit General Strike singers and musicians don't belong to Musicians Local 99 because they are not paid for their performances.

A former Local 99 president, Herman Jobelmann, sent Cook a letter thanking the group for its contributions to the 1987 Labor Day Picnic at Blue Lake Park The venues for General Strike's stirring music include strikes and protest picket lines; labor rallies, parades, festivals and picnics; May Day and Labor Day programs, and other union events. To contact General Strike for an appearance, phone Jim Cook at 503-249-3606, or Jay Russo at 503-771-3021. The group can be reached on the computer Website at generalstrikeband.com.

The Portland-based General Strike members are proud of having been invited to put on shows at such Washington State events as the Yakima Folklife Festival, the Northwest Folklife Festival in Seattle, and the Labor Heritage Festival in Vancouver. General Strike also has performed at the Western Workers Labor Heritage Festival in Santa Cruz,Calif., and at programs at various places in Oregon and elsewhere.

COOK AND RUSSO announced that General Strike will tentatively appear on Saturday, June 2, at the ArtSpace Gallery in Bay City to celebrate a labor culture exhibit. The gallery and a connecting restaurant are on Highway 101 and Fifth Street in Bay City just north of Tillamook on the Oregon Coast. The exhibit will include artwork by Works Progress Administration artists from the 1930s, and paintings of men and women working in 1940s Portland-Vancouver shipyards in World War ll. WPA artists whose works will be displayed include labor activist Martina Gangle Curl, the late wife of retired Portland union carpenter Hank Curl.

More information on the Bay City exhibit can be obtained by telephoning 503-377-2782.


DAVE CALLISON, who led Portland Police Local 456 from collective begging to collective bargaining in the late 1960s and early 1970s, died of a heart attack at age 77 on Friday, April 13.

Before he was elected president of Police Local 456 in 1968, the union's leadership had schmoozed the city's mayor and commissioners for pay raises and benefits, as did other unions of city employees. A militant Callison took office intending to change that and did, benefitting public employees locally and throughout the state. His success in wresting an honest-to-goodness collective bargaining contract from City Hall in 1970 helped set the stage for passage by the 1973 Oregon Legislature of a landmark public employees collective bargaining law.

In obtaining its first contract, the Police Union had the support of most Portland area labor unions. Hundreds of unionists joined police in mounting informational picket lines that surrounded City Hall. The Labor Press, then published weekly, kept up steady pressure on the mayor and city commissioners, printing their pictures and phone numbers and urging readers to call the elected officials to voice support for the police.

LOCAL 456 WAS THE FIRST union of police officers in the United States chartered by the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). It was formed in 1942. Callison took his members out of AFSCME in 1973, using the argument that the union's national leadership was not in agreement with the collective bargaining goals of professional police officers. From then on the union was known as the Portland Police Association (PPA) and operated as an independent bargaining unit that was not affiliated with the AFL-CIO. However, for a number of years the PPA maintained a working relationship with the Portland area central labor council.

Despite Callison's success in getting the police their first contract, the PPA's members voted him out of office in 1974, replacing him with Stan Peters, who had been the union's vice president. The next year Callison, a patrolman who worked as a street officer, retired after a 27-year career.

A Portland native, Callison was a lineman on Roosevelt High School's football team and also competed on the track team. After graduation he turned down a college scholarship and joined the U.S. Marine Corps to fight in the South Pacific island-capturing campaigns in World War II. After the war he studied at Vanport College, which later became Portland State, and in 1948 he began his career in the Portland Police Bureau. Toward the end of his police career, Callison enrolled at the University of Portland to complete his college education, with his expenses paid by a federal program started by President Lyndon Baines Johnson to enable police officers to obtain college degrees.

AFTER LEAVING the Police Bureau, Callison worked for a time as a legislative research aide and driver for U.S. Senator Robert Packwood in Washinton, D.C. Before returning to Portland he worked briefly as a business agent for an Illinois police union.

Later, Callison taught English at schools in Yemen, Saudi Arabia and China.

His survivors include four daughters, a son and 10 grandchildren.

A memorial service for Callison was conducted April 16 at Caldwell's Colonial Chapel followed by burial at Willamette National Cemetery with Marine Corps and Police Bureau honor guards.


L.G. HELWEG, who delivered U.S. mail in southwest Portland from the 1960s until his retirement in 1981, died at age 78 on April 1. He was a big, friendly man who made his rounds with jolly greetings to offices in the Portland Labor Center from its opening in 1966 until its loss to foreclosure in 1978.

L.G.'s sartorial trademark was wearing red socks to add a touch of brightness to his Postal Service uniform. He was a proud member of Letter Carriers Branch 82.


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.