Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

September 21, 2001

AL PANEK, 56, a retired official of the Teamsters who now works for U.S. Senator Ron Wyden, has joined Labor's Hall of Fame, which is sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council's Retirees Council.

The retirees meet monthly at the labor council's offices in Suite 103 A at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland. The retirees started Labor's Hall of Fame in 1997 to honor longtime activists in the labor movement for their endeavors on behalf of working men and women.

Panek, of Portland, retired on Jan. 1, 1997 as secretary-treasurer of International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT) Local 162 and as president of IBT Joint Council 37.

IN APRIL 1997, Panek was hired by Senator Wyden as a field representative on his Portland staff. Panek regularly attends meetings of various labor organizations in order to keep the senator informed of labor's concerns and to report congressional developments to labor union representatives.

Alfred Ole Panek was born in Portland on June 30, 1945 to Alfred H. Panek and June O. Panek. He has an older sister, June Dawson, and a younger sister, Susan Panek. He has a daughter, Alesia Yamasaki, a grandson, Mitchell, age 2, and a nephew, Rodney Alfred Panek, age 7, whom he and his wife, Sandy, are helping to raise.

Panek, whose middle name was his grandfather's first name, attended Vernon Grade School and graduated in 1963 from Jefferson High School, where he lettered in baseball three years and lettered in basketball two years. He was a pitcher and an outfielder on the baseball team and a forward on the basketball team. His classmates voted him "the friendliest" in his senior year.

AS A BASEBALL PITCHER, Panek had the lowest earned run average in the Portland Interscholastic League in his sophomore year at Jefferson. The second-best average was recorded by Rick Wise of Madison High School, who later spent 18 years in the major leagues. An injury to Panek's pitching shoulder in his senior year dashed his hopes for a career in the big leagues.

Instead of becoming a professional baseball player, Panek took a job at Universal Carloading and joined IBT Local 162. He next worked for Colonial Transfer and Warehouse Company. In 1965 he started driving a truck for Pacific Transfer Company. There, not only was he working for a company where his father had worked, but he also drove the same truck his father had driven before Al was born. When Al was two years old, his dad had snapped a photo of him in the truck's cab. From 1967 to 1973 Al drove a truck for Consolidated Freightways.

Panek started holding office in Local 162 in 1969 when he was appointed a trustee in the union. In 1971 he won election to that office. Two years later he was elected as Local 162's sick steward, a position that's now called benefits coordinator.

AGAIN FOLLOWING in the footsteps of his father, Panek was elected a Local 162 business agent in 1977, a post held earlier by his dad. He was re-elected in 1980 and again in 1983. In 1985 he was elected president of Local 162 and he was re-elected in 1988. In Local 162, Panek came under the tutelage of the veteran Teamster leader, Joe Edgar, who was 162's secretary-treasurer and Teamsters Joint Council 37's president. Edgar, who died in 1990, was highly respected throughout the labor movement and by political, business and civic leaders. "Joe was my mentor and a very close colleague and friend," Panek told the Northwest Labor Press.

UPON EDGAR'S DEATH in April 1990, Panek was appointed to succeed him as secretary-treasurer of Teamsters Local 162. Panek also was appointed to serve out the remainder of Edgar's term as a trustee of IBT Joint Council 37.

In 1991 Panek was appointed vice president of Joint Council 37. in December of that year he was elected secretary-treasurer of Local 162 on a white ballot because he was unopposed. In November of 1992 Panek was appointed president of Joint Council 37 upon the retirement of Gene Allison. In 1994 Panek was re-elected secretary-treasurer of Local 162, again on a white ballot. In 1995 he was elected president of Joint Council 37. He filled the leadership posts of Local 162 and Joint Council 37 until his retirement in 1997.

Other positions held by Panek in his years with the Teamsters included service as a trustee on the Oregon Teamsters Employers Trust dating back to 1988. He also was a trustee on the Western Conference of Teamsters Pension Trust from 1992 until his 1997 retirement, and he served on its Data Processing, Plan Design, Investment and Executive Committees.

PANEK WAS THE FIRST Teamster to hold a seat on the Executive Board of Labor's Community Service Agency, a Portland-based office that is affiliated with United Way and provides assistance to workers and their families in hardship situations. He also represented labor on the Executive Board of the Columbia-Willamette United Way.

One of Panek's favorite pastimes is to travel to Arizona in March to watch major league baseball teams play spring training games and to collect the players' autographs. It reminds Al of his high school baseball years and the big league career that might have been - except for that long-ago shoulder injury.

As a field representative for Senator Wyden, Panek belongs to Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11 of Portland.


THE CHOICE OF BILL WYATT to be the new executive director of the Port of Portland holds out a strong hope that his administration might bring an end to the circus atmosphere which has enveloped the state agency for eons.

Wyatt, 51, has been chief of staff for Democratic Governor John Kitzhaber at the Capitol in Salem for nearly seven years. Wyatt was a 1974-76 Democratic state representative from his native Astoria.

Port commissioners, who are appointed by the governor, chose Wyatt over Portland lawyer-turned-high-tech executive Matt Chapman. However, the commissioners continued the port's circus by wasting money on a global search that produced about 100 aspirants from within the United States. Wyatt and Chapman were the finalists, a result that anyone with common sense could have predicted without the expense of the ballyhooed search.

WYATT'S BACKGROUND includes 1987-95 experience as president of the Oregon Business Council; a 1981-87 job as executive director and president of the Association for Portland Progress; and two-year stints in City of Portland and State of Oregon posts.

Wyatt is the son of former Republican Congressman Wendell Wyatt, now retired, who had earlier practiced law in Astoria and was an attorney in Portland after leaving Congress where he was a labor-friendly lawmaker.

WYATT WAS endorsed for the port job by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council and other labor organizations because he has the intelligence and the principles to run the Port of Portland better than any of his predecessors. His first big decision will be his choice of a top assistant.

He's smart enough not to make the mistake of appointing a clown from the port's circus past.


IN CLOSING, let's pause for a moment of silence for private prayer or contemplation in memory of the thousands killed, injured or at this point missing in the terrorist attacks on our nation last Tuesday, Sept. 11.


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