Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

August 4, 2000

ARLENE COLLINS of Portland, an activist in the labor movement and the Democratic Party, was voted into Labor's Hall of Fame by its sponsor, the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council. She is the council's president.

NOLRC is affiliated with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and meets on a monthly basis in the labor council's boardroom at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland.

Collins, 64, served as president, recording secretary and chief shop steward of her local union, Multnomah County Employees Local 88, which is affiliated with the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME). She retired in 1992 after working 21 years in the Multnomah County district attorney's office in the county courthouse at 1021 SW Fourth Ave. in downtown Portland. She was hired in 1971 as a legal clerk and was promoted to a legal assistant in 1976 after obtaining a degree in the administration of justice by attending night classes at Portland State University. She was Local 88's chief shop steward in the DA's office. While employed there, she worked for DAs George VanHoomissen, Des Connall, Harl Haas and Mike Schrunk. VanHoomissen will retire this year from the Oregon Supreme Court; Connall is a highly-regarded criminal defense attorney; and Haas is a longtime Circuit Court judge. Current DA Schrunk is the son of the late Portland Mayor Terry Schrunk, who earlier was sheriff and before that had been a leader in Fire Fighters Local 43.

THE NEWEST MEMBER of Labor's Hall of Fame holds the distinction of being the first woman to hold the office of first vice president of the Oregon AFL-CIO. Traditionally, women were allocated the second vp slot, but Collins, who occupied that office when the first vice presidency opened up, ran for it and was elected in 1987. In 1989 Collins ran for president of the state labor federation. She also has served on the board of AFSCME's Oregon Council 75, and currently serves on NOLC's Executive Board.

Collins was a strike captain in Local 88's landmark 1980 strike against Multnomah County's management, led by County Chairman Don Clark and his chief negotiator, Steve Telfer. The leader of a large private sector union told his buddy Clark that the Local 88 strikers "were not real union people," Collins recalled. Clark's union buddy told him "to hang tough and Local 88 will cave in," she remembered.

Clark, who had bulletproof glass installed in his office during the strike, always seemed to snow some private sector union leaders into thinking he was a friend of organized labor. Local 88 members, backed up by the Portland area labor council and most of its affiliates, stayed on the bricks for 38 days and won their strike.

LOOKING BACK on her years of activism in Local 88, Collins is proud of her role in working with other members and Joe Devlaeminck, the union's longtime president, in recruiting large numbers of county workers into the union. She said their long-running organizing drive swelled Local 88's membership ranks from 900 to 2,500. Local 88 has since increased its membership to over 3,000.

A highlight of her union career was being one of the AFL-CIO's representatives on a trip to Nicaragua and El Salvador in the mid-1980s. Unionists provided funds to re-roof a school and dig a well for a village, and she was the gift-bearer to the two countries.

"I've been a Democrat all my life." Collins told the Northwest Labor Press in explaining her many years of service to the Oregon Democratic Party, starting out as a precinct committee person. She's served as state treasurer and state vice chair. She was elected as a delegate to this year's Democratic National Convention to be held in Los Angeles later this month but has withdrawn because of a recent attack of lupus, an immune-suppressant disease she's had since 1989. It was in remission for six years before the recent flare-up. She spent some time in St. Vincent Medical Center and at this writing was living in an adult foster care home. Collins works as a legislative assistant to Democratic State Representative Dan Gardner. She has worked for the Electrical Workers Local 48 vice president since he was elected in 1996 to represent a southeast Portland district in the Oregon Legislature at Salem. IN ADDITION TO HER activity in the labor movement and in Democratic politics, Collins also has devoted her energies to improving the education of children. Since 1996 she has served as an elected member of the Multnomah County Education Service District's board.

Collins was born on June 26,1936, in Levelland, Texas, west of Lubbock in the Panhandle area. She earned a degree in music education at Southern Methodist University in Dallas. She got married, moved to North Carolina where she taught music to elementary school pupils. In the early 1960s she enlisted in the civil rights movement and spent time registering black voters in Philadelphia, Mississippi, a place where three civil rights volunteers were murdered.

Later on, Collins taught music at schools in San Rafael, Calif., and on the island of Guam in the Pacific Ocean. When Collins, her husband and their five children moved to Tacoma, she left music education for a clerical job in the local office of Washington's attorney general. Within a few years she and her husband were divorced and she relocated in Portland. After a stint working at the Blue Cross insurance office, she started her career at the DA's office.

AFTER MOVING TO PORTLAND Arlene married Gene Collins, a certified public accountant. He helped Arlene with her union and political endeavors. Gene died in 1990. Besides her three daughters, Leah, Julie and Kristina; and two sons, Tor and Eric, Arlene has seven grandchildren.


KELLEY LOE - a printer, reporter, editor, publisher, author, labor publicist and lobbyist - ranks among the legendary figures of the Oregon labor movement in the 20th century. Loe held memberships in two unions. As a printer he belonged to Multnomah Typographical Union No. 58. As a publicist and lobbyist for the Oregon State Federation of Labor he was a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11.

He was born on July 4, 1881 at Modena, Missouri. His first job was as an apprentice printer and a reporter on a weekly near his hometown.

THE PACIFIC NORTHWEST attracted Loe in 1902. He launched a weekly newspaper at Centerville, near Goldendale, across the Columbia River from The Dalles. Later, he published weeklies in the Washington towns of Washougal, Camas and Ridgefield. In 1918, Loe moved to Portland and became a reporter for the Oregon Labor Press. In 1926, while working for the Labor Press on a part-time basis, he became an unpaid assistant to Executive Secretary-Treasurer Ben Osborne of the Oregon Federation of Labor. By 1937 Loe was hired as a full-time employee of the labor federation.

Loe represented the labor federation at every session of the Oregon Legislature at Salem from 1931 to 1951. "His wise strategy as a lobbyist was credited with winning many legislative battles for labor during those difficult years," the Labor Press said of Loe in his 1957 obituary.

LOE WAS CO-AUTHOR with Richard L. Neuberger of a 1936 book, "An Army of the Aged," a critical study of the Townsend pension plan. Neuberger later served in the Oregon Legislature and in the U.S. Senate. Loe's obituary said he was Oregon's leading authority on labor history and wrote "The Story of American Labor," published in 1953.

Loe was proud of his role in assisting May Darling of Portland Teachers Local 111 in founding the state labor federation's college scholarship program in 1947. The scholarships are still awarded annually by the Oregon AFL-CIO.


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