Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

October 1, 1999

THE NORTHWEST Oregon Labor Retirees Council has chosen retired labor movement official and political activist Lon Imel of Wilsonville as the newest member of Labor's Hall of Fame. The retirees are affiliated with the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council.

Imel, 68, retired last year from his second career, during which he worked as a labor liaison on the staffs of members of Congress.

He was U.S. Representative Elizabeth Furse's contact person with the labor movement throughout her three-term career, from which she retired last year. Democrat Furse represented Oregon's First Congressional District, stretching from Portland's west side to the coast, in the 1993, '95 and'97 sessions of Congress. During that time she compiled a good voting record on labor issues in the eyes of the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Before joining Furse's staff, Imel had worked for four years as the labor liaison for U.S. Representative Les AuCoin, who'd first been elected in the First District in 1974. Democrat AuCoin relinquished his First District seat to challenge Republican U.S. Senator Bob Packwood's bid for re-election in 1992. After losing that race, AuCoin became a lobbyist, and Imel signed on with Furse.

In his years as a congressional labor liaison, Imel from time to time took leaves of absence to assist in political campaigns including Bill Clinton's 1992 and '96 successful runs for the White House. Currently, Imel is helping to build the Oregon campaign framework for the Democratic Party's nominee for president next year.

WHEN IMEL JOINED AuCoin's staff he went to work for a congressman whose election campaigns he'd played a key role in while he was a labor movement official.

Imel had stepped down in 1985 from his post as executive secretary-treasurer of the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, a post to which he'd first been elected in 1980. He left the NOLC because his wife Diane's doctor recommended that they relocate to Hawaii whose climate he thought would be beneficial for her muscular dystrophy. Lon and Diane were given a royal send-off at a banquet attended by more than 300 labor movement officials, city and state office-holders and other dignitaries. However, after several years in Hawaii, they decided to return to Oregon. That's when Lon began working as a congressional labor liaison.

When Imel was elected as the full-time executive officer of the Portland area labor council its name was Multnomah County Labor Council. Under his leadership the council's name was changed to Northwest Oregon Labor Council, and he set into motion a program in which councils in Washington, Clackamas and Columbia counties merged with the Portland-based central body.

Earlier, Imel had been the labor council's president, having been elected to that position in 1978. In that office he presided over meetings and was available to assist the executive secretary-treasurer when needed. While serving as president he worked as a business representative for United Food and Commercial Workers (UFCW) Local 1092's medical division. He had become a Local 1092 business agent in 1965 when the union's name was Food and Drug Clerks Local 1092. It was an affiliate of the Retail Clerks International Association, which later merged with the Meat Cutters and other unions to form the UFCW.

SHORTLY AFTER IMEL went to Hawaii, Local 1092 and other UFCW locals in Oregon and southwest Washington consolidated to form UFCW Local 555, based in Tigard. In his years as a congressional staffer Imel retained his UFCW retiree membership and also joined Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 11.

Imel began his membership in Local 1092 in 1951 while employed as a supermarket clerk following a hitch in the U.S. Coast Guard. He graduated from RooseveIt High School and attended the University of Portland and Portland State University.

In his years with Local 1092 and the labor council, Imel achieved influence within the labor movement. He served on labor, civic and governmental boards and commissions.

He spent 10 years on the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board and chaired its Finance Review Committee. Active for six years in the United Way of the Columbia-Willamette, Imel contributed his energy to its board of directors and executive committee and chaired various subcommittees. He also was president of Labor's Community Service Agency, which is affiliated with both the labor council and United Way.

IN THE EARLY 1980s, Republican Governor Vic Atiyeh called on Imel to bring his knowledge to the deliberations of the Oregon Economic Development Commission and to the Governor's Labor Advisory Committee. Also in the early 1980s he was asked to apply his vision to the Port of Portland's Year 2000 Committee.

Lon and Diane Imel have been married for 39 years. They have a daughter, Jodi,and two grandchildren. Jodi and her husband live in the Washington, D.C., area. She works for the National Council of Senior Citizens, which is closely associated with the AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions.


MILTON R. HILL of Portland, a retired business manager of Sheet Metal Workers Local 16, died of cancer on Sept. 17 at age 61.

He was business manager and secretary-treasurer of Local 16 from 1979 until 1996. He was born on May 15, 1938 in Merced, Calif., and later lived in Kansas. He served in the National Guard.

Hill moved to Portland in 1967 and became an active member of Local 16. He represented the local union at meetings of the metropolitan area labor council and building trades regional and state councils, at conventions of the Oregon AFL-CIO and the Sheet Metal Workers International Association. He served as a trustee of his union's pension and health and welfare trust funds, and also was a trustee of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company, representing Local 16 shares.

Survivors include his wife, the former Libby Chavez, whom he married in 1959; four daughters, Sheri Thomas of St. Helens, Korene Hill of Portland, Mary F. Milnes of Ridgefield, Wash., and Denise Graham of Columbia City; two sons, Robert and Michael, both of Portland; his mother, Gladys Hill of Wichita, Kan.; a sister, Doris Weiss of Lynchburg, Va., a brother, Donald Hill of Cottonwood, Calif.; and five grandchildren.

His funeral was conducted Sept. 21 at Madeleine Parish in northeast Portland followed by burial at Gethsemani Cemetery, with arrangements by Mt. Scott Funeral Home.

Memorial contributions can be sent to Providence Hospice.


IS VOTING on its way to becoming a spectator sport? The Washington Spectator reports that the national voter turnout in the 1996 general election "was eight million voters lower than the voting total in 1992. It was the lowest voter participation since the pre-television election of 1924. That election gave us Republican Calvin Coolidge as president, one of the worst in history. The newsletter said that in six large states - California, Florida, Illinois, New York, Pennsylvania and Texas - "there were more no-shows than voters."


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