Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

June 18, 1999

HAROLD E. KING of Tigard, the newest member of Labor's Hall of Fame, voiced embarrassment when his colleagues on the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council tapped him for the honor.

"There are others more deserving," said King, who's been the council's secretary-treasurer since 1994.

At 77, King is old enough to remember working for 15 cents an hour. That was at a meat market in Canby where he attended high school. He was born in Woodburn, where his parents owned a berry farm. He left home and moved to Canby to get away from the restrictive atmosphere engendered by his parents' ultra-conservative evangelical religion.

In 1942 with World War II under way, King enlisted in the U.S. Marine Corps. Among the South Pacific battles he engaged in as a corporal in a Marine Air Wing were those in the New Hebrides, the Solomon Islands and General Douglas MacArthur's return to The Philippines.

BEFORE THE WAR and after he returned from the Marines, King worked as a member of several unions before embarking on a 30-year career in the paper industry. In his early years he belonged to the Molders, the Laborers, and the Lumber and Sawmill Workers.

In 1948 he was hired by the Crown Zellerbach paper mill in West Linn and joined Local 68 of the International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers. The local's president was William R. Perrin, an electrician at the mill who was to become a friend and an influence in King's life. In addition to being a local union president, Perrin, a graduate of Oregon State, was a leader of the Clackamas County Labor Council and played an important role in the state labor federation as an Executive Board member and convention committee chairman.

"He was my teacher," said King of Perrin, who died two months ago at age 89. King held a number of offices in Local 68, including secretary-treasurer, and eventually succeeded Perrin as president. King joined other West Coast paper industry workers in helping Perrin establish the independent Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers in 1964. After Perrin was elected AWPPW president, King was elected president of Local 68, which switched from the AFL-CIO Pulp, Sulphite Union to the AWPPW.

King served on AWPPW bargaining boards, was president of its Oregon Council for three years and was vice chairman of the AWPPW Union Caucus.

BUT LIFE WAS NOT all work and union business for King. Ever since his teen-age years he'd participated in the sport of weightlifting. He'd placed fifth in a Marine Corps weightlifting competition in Los Angeles before being shipped to the South Pacific war zone. In the 1950s the prestigious Multnomah Athletic Club recruited him to compete on its weightlifting team under the tutelage of the famed Joe Loprinzi. A complimentary membership in the expensive MAC was a perk for competing under its banner. King recalls being able to bench press 400 pounds at age 50 in a 1971 contest he entered long after his MAC days.

King took early retirement from the West Linn paper mill in 1978 and for a time was associated with one of his sons in a property ownership business involving apartment houses and single-family dwellings.

But in the past 15 years he's devoted much of his time to being active in retiree organizations, prompted by the same dedication to helping people that inspired him to become active in his local union. He's treasurer of the Oregon State Council of Senior Citizens and was its president for four years. He's on the executive board of the United Seniors of Oregon and earlier served as its treasurer. He's also a member of the Gray Panthers and the Willamette Falls Pensioners. And, as was mentioned at the beginning, King's the secretary-treasurer of the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council, which is affiliated with the Portland-based NW Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO. He's also lobbied on behalf of senior citizen issues at the Oregon Legislature at Salem.

KING CONSIDERS himself lucky to be a survivor of prostate cancer.

On another personal note, King, who's been married and divorced twice, has two daughters and two sons and is a grandfather and great-grandfather many times over.

***

PORTLAND MAYOR VERA KATZ faces a major decision: Whom to appoint as the city's new police chief to succeed Charles Moose, who'll leave soon to become chief of Maryland's Montgomery County, a major suburb of Washington, D.C.

The mayor has launched a national search for a new boss of the Portland Police Bureau but she need look no farther than its top brass. There are a number of ranking officers with the qualifications to lead the bureau into the 21st century. Perhaps she should call a meeting of all lieutenants, captains, commanders and deputy chiefs, take a secret ballot on their choices for chief and see who gets the most votes. A similar procedure has worked for centuries at the Vatican.

Promoting from within would be good for bureau morale, among other things, and it would avoid undergoing an awkward period while an outsider learns how to pronounce Orygun and the names of the rivers, streets and other geographic features, plus the names of his/her subordinates.

MORE IMPORTANT, a chief selected from within the bureau would already know, from long association, the strengths and weaknesses of other ranking officers, and in reshuffling command assignments wouldn't attempt to put square pegs in round holes and vice versa - which happened the last time we had an outsider as chief.

Because of residency requirements we can't conduct nationwide searches for mayors, county commissioners, governors and other elected officials. Perhaps the same residency restrictions should apply to police chiefs and other appointed officials.

***

CORPORATE BOSSES make 419 times more than the average blue-collar workers, according to the Washington Spectator newsletter, which said: "In Greed They Trust - They've done it again. Every year Business Week magazine tallies the staggering increase in the gluttonous compensation of corporate executives, some of it unrelated to poor managerial performance. The average raise for chief executive officers last year was 36 percent - to a top of $576 million for the Walt Disney Company's Michael Eisner - while the average pay of production workers rose 2.7 percent, just one-tenth of 1 percent more than the meager 1997 increase."

***

FROM LABOR NOTES, a magazine published in Detroit, Mich., comes this information: * "The American Management Association says that 27 percent of companies read their employees' e-mail, up from 17 percent two years ago. The snooping is the most frequent in the financial industry."

* "Workers at a McDonald's restaurant in Squamish, British Columbia, Canada, have ratified a collective bargaining contract - apparently the first union contract at any McDonald's in North America. The restaurant's staff belongs to the Canadian Auto Workers."

* The North Bay Central Labor Council is holding its Labor and Social Action Summer School July 9-11 at Sonoma State University in Rohnert Park, Calif. For more information, call 707-545-7349.

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