Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

May 17, 2002

A FEW MONTHS PRIOR to John W. Ball's recent death, he sent me a letter stressing the importance of labor history being provided to union members and relating some of his own history with the Woodworkers. John had been secretary-treasurer of Woodworkers Region 3 at the Gladstone office until the International Woodworkers of America was divided into two separate unions - one in Canada and one in the United States of America. John became secretary-treasurer of the IWA-USA and held that post until his retirement in the late 1980s.

Later, he lobbied on behalf of injured workers on the issue of workers' compensation insurance at the Oregon Legislature at Salem.

John had been selected by the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council for its Labor Hall of Fame, so I called to tell him I'd wait and use the thoughts expressed in his letter later on when I would interview him as a Hall of Fame selection. Unfortunately, John Warren Ball of Canby died of a heart attack on April 2. He was 75 years old. His obituary appeared here in the April 19 issue of the Northwest Labor Press.

In his letter, John called attention to the 5 l /2-year Portland newspaper strike in l959-65 against the Oregonian and the former Oregon Journal. He also mentioned the role played by the strike-born Portland Reporter, which was published by striking unionists from 1960-64. Then he said: "Our members need to have some of this history from time to time just to let them know that today's wages, benefits and working conditions did not just happen. Sacrifices were made to achieve benefits enjoyed by our younger members today."


"Over decades, issues don't change that much either. I recall that back in 1948 I was elected as a delegate from my local union to the convention of the CIO Oregon State Industrial Union Council. The National CIO (Congress of Industrial Organizations) also held their convention in Portland the same week. Keep in mind this was before TV. Our locals paid per-diem of $6 per day including hotel. Normally, two delegates rented a room with two beds and shared the expense. Our entertainment budget was pretty limited, so we normally would get a couple of fifths of booze and gang up in one room with a couple pitchers of ice water and talk union problems and issues.

"One particular evening the subject was organizing and how to organize more members into the IWA. All at once I looked up to see Walter Reuther walk into the room with his bodyguard. Walter still had a cast on one arm from the shotgun assassination attempt. He strolled in, sat down on the bed and joined right in the discussion.

"WE POINTED OUT that where his union, the United Auto Workers, was organizing plants with a couple of thousand members, in the timber industry, successfully organizing a sawmill with two hundred employees was considered a real achievement.

"Reuther's theory was that the size of the operation was not the real point. Rather, that organizing was the lifeblood of any trade union and the day we quit organizing successfully is the day we all commit ourselves to failure. As I look around today and see the low numbers of organized industrial workers, and the lack of any success in organizing, I keep recalling the words of Walter Reuther over 50 years ago and how right he was. Of course, there also are other factors involved, however, basically we have failed in the field of organizing... .

"Gene, I would hope that you continue to bring some labor history to the current generation of workers who read the Northwest Labor Press."


THE LABEL LETTER, published by the AFL-C10 Union Label and Service Trades Department in Washington, D.C., recently printed the following article under the headline "Foxes in the Hen House":

"Meet Mark D. Wilson, deputy assistant secretary in the Department of Labor for the Employment Standards Administration (ESA). As a 'deputy', Wilson's appointment did not require Senate confirmation. It does, however, bear some scrutiny. Wilson moved to the department from the right-wing Heritage Foundation where, as a research fellow, he authored a number of 'background' papers including a lengthy treatise entitled: 'How to Close Down the Department of Labor.'

"Other Wilson articles from the Heritage Foundation include papers opposing ergonomic regulations, attacking the minimum wage, and supporting anti-union paycheck protection legislation.

"IN HIS CURRENT POST, Wilson is the top political official in ESA, which oversees enforcement of wage and hour laws, Davis-Bacon and the Service Contracts Act, minimum wage violations, and laws prohibiting racial discrimination by companies acting as contractors for the federal government - all programs long targeted for extinction by the right wing.

"During the Reagan and Bush I administrations, Wilson was a senior economist in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Policy.

"The labor movement has spotlighted a number of other controversial White House appointments which have placed individuals in sensitive government positions, most recently the appointment of Eugene Scalia, an outspoken critic of ergonomics protections, as solicitor of the Department of Labor.

"LAST YEAR, the Label Letter reported on the appointment of Patrick Pizzella as Assistant Secretary of Administration and Management in the Department of Labor. Pizzella had previously managed an $8 million lobbying campaign to keep Congress from imposing stricter labor protections for workers in the American protectorate of the Marianas Islands."


RON SAXTON, the Portland lawyer who's the favorite of right-wingers in the Republican race for the party's nomination for governor of Oregon, has run some sleazy television ads that call the stock market-caused financial problems of the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (PERS) "Another Enron!" The problems of the Houston-based energy octopus were caused by corporate fraud. To accuse PERS of fraud is an egregious example of political irresponsibility.

Instead, the anti-union Saxton's ads for governor should apologize for his poor record as a Portland School Board member. His performance in running the schools certainly doesn't bode well for entrusting him with anything larger.


TERRY HANNON , a candidate for Multnomah County Circuit Court judge endorsed by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council and many other local organizations, points out that his opponent in the May 21 primary election, Christopher Marshall, is a partner in the Portland law firm of Lane Powell Spears Lubersky.

Marshall has been careful in his campaign literature to not show that he is a partner in the law firm, probably because Lane Powell Spears Lubersky is ponying up $25 million in a settlement agreement for its part in the Capital Consultants Inc. debacle. Lane Powell partner Robert Maloney was longtime counsel to Capital Consultants and its former CEO Jeffrey Grayson prior to its collapse in September 2000 amid charges by federal regulators that the investment manager was running an intricate scheme to conceal huge losses, Hannon said.

The law firm did not acknowledge any wrongdoing and says that the settlement is covered by insurance, Hannon noted.


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