Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

August 2, 2002

ALEX EDENHOFER, 75, a retired secretary-treasurer of Portland-based Bakers Local 114 and a lifelong mariner, sailed into Labor's Hall of Fame on a signal from the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council. The retirees are affiliated with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council (NOLC), which has its headquarters at 1125 SE Madison St.

Edenhofer retired in 1982 as the leader of Local 114, which has long had its offices at 901 SE Oak St., Portland. The union's full name is now Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 114.

ALEX JOINED Local 114 in 1943 when he was employed as a helper at a Fred Meyer bakery while a student at Washington High School. The bakery was within walking distance from the school and was situated across Southeast Madison from the building in which NOLC has its offices. His entry into the baker's trade was a case of following in the occupational footsteps of his father, Alex, and his uncle, Mike.

Alex John Edenhofer was born in Norfolk, Nebraska, on June 12, 1927. His family moved to Portland when he was three months old. He attended Woodstock Grade School in Southeast Portland and later graduated from Washington High, which closed two decades ago. After he finished high school he left his job at Fred Meyer to serve in the U.S. Merchant Marine in World War II. He was a cook and a baker for the freighters on which he served, transporting wartime cargo.

AFTER THE WAR, Edenhofer worked in Portland retail bakery shops before embarking on a 25-year career at the old Davidson's Bakery, where he handled "all the jobs." He served on Local 114's Executive Board and as a trustee for many years, and was president of the union for six years before succeeding Bob Stevens as secretary-treasurer in 1972.

As the leader of Local 114, Edenhofer was a trustee of the union's health and welfare trust fund and was a vice president of the Western Conference of Bakers. He also chaired the Bakers Apprenticeship Committee. He was active in the Portland Provision Trades Council, which included the Teamsters who were then not in the AFL-CIO. Edenhofer represented the food industry council on the Executive Board of the Multnomah County Labor Council, which is now a part of the four-county Northwest Oregon Labor Council. He also was active in the Portland Maritime Trades Council, which included not only seafaring unions but also other locals, such as the Bakers, with members who were employed on Swan Island and at other waterfront locations.

LOCAL 114 Secretary-Treasurer Edenhofer and Noel Johnson, a business representative, established a shop steward system at bakeries and retail shops where the union's members worked.

Besides following his father into the bakery trade, Alex inherited his dad's keen interest in boats. "'I've been around boats all my life," he told the Northwest Labor Press. His father liked to fish and always had a boat.

Alex and his wife of 55 years, the former Mary Jo Limbaugh (no relation to the conservative radio commentator), currently own an ocean-going 42-foot trawler. "We've always loved the water," he said. The Edenhofers enjoy taking their vessel up to Alaska's Glacier Bay and visiting points in-between there and Portland. They are longtime members of the Tyee Yacht Club; Alex was its commodore in 1972. Other organizations to which Edenhofer belongs are the Elks Lodge and the American Legion.

MARY JO EDENHOFER'S profession was banking. She was a branch manager for the First Interstate Bank. It's now part of the Wells-Fargo organization.

The Edenhofers spend winters in Arizona and summers in Portland. "In the summer we boat and in the winter we play golf," Alex said. They also enjoy dancing.

Alex and Mary Jo have a daughter, Cathie, who lives in Garibaldi. Her grown son followed his grandfather into the Merchant Marine after graduating from the California Maritime Academy. Alex said his grandson has a chief mate's license "that's good for any ocean, any size ship. In addition, he's a full lieutenant in the U.S. Navy Reserve."

LOOKING BACK, Edenhofer said, "What I miss most about being retired are the members. The Bakers are a great bunch to represent."


ROBERT HEMSLEY of Everett, Washington, a member of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers, a division of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, voiced his opinion on the economy in an article published by the New York Times on its Op Ed Page. "Losing My Stake in the Economy," was the headline on Hemsley's article, with a subhead saying "Workers take the risks; executives get the rewards."

Unionist Hemsley's opinion piece follows:

"I work operating industrial machinery at a paper mill that is owned by a global corporation. My mill was built in the 1920s, when the stock market was soaring, F. Scott Fitzgerald was writing about the rich, and Babe Ruth was hitting home runs for the Yankees. I get paid by the hour and do not understand the markets. I do not belong to a country club or own a suit. I just want to work at the mill until I retire.

"MY MILL has survived the Depression, a world war, even a couple minor earthquakes. But I worry if it can survive Ken Lay. Small investors like me - encouraged by politicians, financial advisers and CNBC -poured our retirement savings into the stock market. Now we are dismayed that the corporate captains have abandoned accountability while the crew sinks with the ship.

"Perhaps I am looking for excuses for the recent poor performance of my 401(k) plan, but I wonder if the market is fair. In 2001, the average chief executive's pay was more than $11 million, according to Pearl Meyer & Partners, an executive-compensation consulting firm.

Executive pay has been climbing steadily for the past two decades and has outpaced employee pay. Two decades ago, CEOs were paid about 40 times more than the average hourly employee; now they make more than 500 times the wage of the average hourly employee.

"LAST YEAR, the CEO of my company made 592 times more than I did. I wonder if that makes me underpaid or the CEO overpaid. Recently, management told hourly employees at my mill to make concessions or risk losing our jobs. We made the concessions last autumn, but last spring the CEO received a stock 'gift' worth $1.4 million.

"This isn't capitalism, it's avarice. I am not naive. I know about the robber barons of the late l9th century and others throughout history who have abused the system. But never has the gap between executives and employees been greater. This disparity threatens the capitalist system itself. When employees make concessions while executives take bonuses, the bonds of common purpose are broken.

"CONTRAST THIS with the Marine Corps, which is structured so that enlisted personnel and officers work together for a common purpose. The Marine Corps commandant runs an organization with 172,600 men and women, oversees an annual budget of some $13.2 billion and is paid $163,177 annually - just 13 times more than the pay of a new private in boot camp. The system is successful because of a tradition of shared risks and rewards.

"All employees want their company to succeed, and I am proud to work where I do. I imagine my concern about my company's share price is as great as my CEO's; a portion of my 401 (k) is in company stock. I recognize my job depends upon my company making a profit.

"BUT I WONDER if corporate executives appreciate the role workers play in their success. Free enterprise is a system of risks and rewards. As it now stands, employees suffer most of the risks, while executives enjoy most of the rewards."


Home | About

© Oregon Labor Press Publishing Co. Inc.