Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

September 5, 1997

THE NORTHWEST Oregon Labor Retirees Council has selected Russ Farrell as the newest member of its Labor Hall of Fame.

Delegates to the council picked Farrell at the group's monthly meeting in the Northwest Oregon Labor Council's board room at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland. The retirees established the Labor Hall of Fame earlier this year as a way of bestowing recognition on retired workers.

RUSSELL C. FARRELL, 86, of Portland, retired in 1975 after a career that encompassed membership in four labor unions in Washington and Oregon. He's also a labor poet, songwriter and folksinger.

Farrell has published two books of labor poetry, prose, and songs. "Yesterday Is Hardly Gone" was printed in 1975, followed by "Too Soon to Close the Door" in 1983. Internationally-known labor troubadour Pete Seeger wrote an introduction to Farrell's 1975 book which said:

"Russ Farrell and his wife are honest working people. What more needs to be said?... "It's great to know that in this TV age, people have not forgotten some great old traditions, and one of them is the Irish love of rhyming, storytelling and singing.

"I met Russ and his wife a quarter-century ago in a small town on Puget Sound, and have since then sung many times the song he taught me: 'Then We'll Have Peace,' It's as true now as it was then..."

RALPH FRIEDMAN, author of books about exploring Oregon's nooks and crannies, penned a tribute to Farrell which said:

"I'd like to say a few words about my friend, Russ Farrell, because few writers I know have the built-in lyricism, the verve and the chanting rhythm of this man who all his life has worked with his hands....

"Born on a Minnesota farm and in his young manhood a harvest hand on the Great Plains, Russ really belongs to the Pacific Northwest. For 26 years he was a logger on the Olympic Peninsula and might be there still if he hadn't been blackballed for union organizing. The timber bosses didn't want Paul Bunyan sounding like Joe Hill.

"SO THE FAMILY moved to Portland where Russ, a jack of all trades, hired on in line construction. Later he found work as a shipwright and enrolled in a writing class at Portland Community College.

"Like the true balladeer, Russ likes to read his poems aloud. Soon his fellow students, fellow workers and friends started insisting that Russ put out a book of poetry..."

While logging on Washington's Olympic Peninsula, Farrell joined the Woodworkers. He was a shop steward and a vice president of his local. He also was an organizer and recalls with pride his success in persuading an Indian workforce at one Washington mill to join the union. Farrell and his wife Lorine moved their family to Portland in the late 1960s. After being blackballed by timber bosses he got work for a time in Washington as a member of the Laborers and his first jobs in Oregon were in that jurisdiction. Later he worked at Portland's Swan Island shipyard as a member of Carpenters and Shipwrights Local 1020. Then a ground-crew job with a company that put up utility lines took him into Portland-based Electrical Workers Local 125. After a half-dozen or so years of that work he returned to the waterfront.

SOON AFTER HE MOVED to Portland Farrell busied himself in the Democratic Party and in grass-roots peace, environmental and anti-sales tax organizations. He was president of the East Side Democratic Club; volunteered for grape boycott picket lines; demonstrated for closure of the Trojan nuclear power plant; was arrested at an anti-apartheid rally at the South African consulate in Portland; chaired a statewide committee on labor's right to circulate petitions at stores and malls, and chaired a statewide committee against enactment of a sales tax.

Farrell's wife Lorine taught for 19 years at a Portland alternative school. They have three daughters, a son, eight grandchildren and four great-grandchildren. Daughter Sharon is a former organizer for the Clothing Workers; daughter Sandi is a shop steward at a hospital where she's employed as a technician; daughter Jerri teaches at the same school where her mother taught, and son Jim is a Teamster shop steward.

From his vantage point of four-score-and-six years, Farrell stressed: "In my mind labor and peace pretty much run together. Working people shouldn't be fighting wars against each other."

A SLICK EAST COAST political operator, who's against government, taxes and workers, manipulated Oregon voters in 1996 and can be expected to try it again in the 1998 elections. Grover C. Norquist of the right-wing Americans for Tax Reform (ATR) funnelled nearly $600,000 into the 1996 campaign of Oregon Taxpayers United (OTU) and William Lee Sizemore to pass Ballot Measure 47. The slash-and-burn tax limitation petition initiative to eviscerate revenues for schools and public services passed by a wide margin. It faced a probable cancellation in the courts but the Republican-controlled 1997 Oregon Legislature bailed out Sizemore by repackaging No.47 into Measure 50 which voters approved last May.

Now, the OTU and Sizemore are targeting Metro, the shortened name for the Metropolitan Service District. Norquist's ATR probably will dump hundreds of thousands of dollars into the OTU's 1997-98 political hustle to destroy the Portland metro area's regional government. Where does Norquist, a 40-year-old Harvard graduate, get the gobs of money he pours into his widespread political machinations?

THAT'S A SECRET that the non-profit status of ATR lets Norquist hide except for disclosure of the $4.6 million he received last year from the Republican National Committee. One of his critics, Charles Lewis, executive director of the Center for Public Integrity in Washington, D.C., called ATR "a money launderer." Lewis was quoted in the New York Times as saying:

"Americans for Tax Reform is a front for the Republican Party. Republicans are hiding money in this group, and that is fundamentally dishonest."

Norquist has denied that any of the money he sloshed into Oregon came from the Republican Party. If not from there, then it came from his shadowy contributors. One can only guess at who they are. A couple of right-wing names that come to mind as possible donors are the wealthy Coors beer family of Colorado and multimillionaire Richard Scaife of Pennsylvania whose money derives from steel and media corporations.

BEFORE HE STARTED Americans for Tax Reform in 1985, Norquist was employed by the anti-worker U.S. Chamber of Commerce in Washington, D.C., and union-busting President Ronald Reagan.

Norquist, the Sizemore-OTU moneybags, wants to privatize the Social Security Administration, eliminate the public school system, privatize the nation's airports and wastewater treatment plants, and slash government's role in health care insurance. Norquist maintains a working relationship with the Christian Coalition, Heritage Foundation, National Rifle Association and the Cato Institute.

In addition to his Americans for Tax Reform, Norquist heads a lobbying company, the Merritt Group, the New York Times has reported. Among his clients, the newspaper said, are Microsoft Corporation which is run by Seattle billionaire Bill Gates, the richest man in the world; the U.S. branch of the Canadian liquor and beverage firm Seagram, and the Distilled Spirits Council of the United States.

The Times said Norquist used to be "a registered foreign agent at $10,000 a month for the political organization of Jonas Savimbi, the Angolan rebel leader..."

Sizemore and the OTU couldn't put their government-and-school-wrecking measures on the ballot without the hundreds of thousands they receive from ATR and other radical-right slush puppies. Sizemore and OTU need the big bucks to pay the people they hire to gather signatures on their initiative petitions.


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