Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

November 16, 2001

RALPH F. KAUFMAN, a retired secretary-treasurer of Portland Auto Mechanics Lodge 1005, was voted into Labor's Hall of Fame by the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council.

The council started the Hall of Fame in 1997 to honor retired unionists for their work in advancing the welfare of their members and for other contributions to the labor movement. The retirees are affiliated with the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, and meet monthly in NOLC's boardroom at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland.

Kaufman retired in 1971 after serving for over 17 years as secretary-treasurer of Auto Mechanics Lodge 1005 of the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers (IAMAW). He celebrated his 93rd birthday on Halloween.

KAUFMAN WAS BORN on Oct. 31, 1908 in Nappanee, Indiana, southeast of South Bend. Two years later his parents moved their family to Cando, North Dakota, in the northeastern part of the state not far from the Canadian border. Ralph's father was a farmer, both in Indiana and North Dakota, and also worked in construction jobs. After graduating from high school in Cando, Ralph took classes in machine shop and auto body repair at the North Dakota State School of Science in Wahpeton in the southeastern corner of the state.

Ralph and his wife of 65 years, the former Solveig Borreson, met while she was visiting in Cando, where her brothers had a radio repair shop. She was a school teacher in Mott, southwest of Bismarck. Solveig had her heart set on moving to Portland because of its proximity to Mount Hood. She was attracted to the magnificent mountain upon seeing a photo of it in a geography book. Ralph and Solveig were married in Cando on Sept. 6, 1936.

KAUFMAN HITCHHIKED to Portland and "hit every machine shop" looking for a job so that his wife could join him in the city of her choice. He was hired in 1937 by the Harry S. Hill Co., which bought old print shops, rebuilt the printing machinery and then re-sold it. In l942 he went to work in a wartime shipyard on Swan Island and joined Machinists Lodge 63. Later he worked at the A. Young and Sons machine shop, the American Can plant, Marine Electric and Bingham Pump. His next job was at the Freightliner truck manufacturing plant on Swan Island, where he was hired in 1949. In that job he transferred his membership to another IAMAW local, Auto Mechanics Lodge 1005. He stayed at Freightliner until 1953 when he was elected secretary-treasurer of Lodge 1005.

As secretary-treasurer, Kaufman ran the union's office and represented Local 1005 at meetings of the Multnomah County Labor Council and at conventions of the state labor federation and of the IAMAW. He served on the committee that arranged the 1956 merger of the Portland labor councils of the American Federation of Labor and the Congress of Industrial Organizations. He also was a delegate to the Portland convention the same year that approved the statewide merger establishing the Oregon AFL-CIO.

KAUFMAN WAS A LEADER in the automotive apprenticeship program for the over 17 years he held the secretary-treasurer's job in Auto Mechanics Local 1005. For a decade he was a delegate from Oregon to the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League's conferences in Washington, D.C. He also served as the secretary-treasurer of Machinists District 24. In that era, District 24 provided an organizing service for the local lodges. Since 1974 it has been a full-service district, handling many executive and administrative functions previously taken care of by each local.

Active in politics, Kaufman held an elected Democratic precinct committeeman post in his Woodstock neighborhood in southeast Portland and worked in the winning campaigns of a number of labor-endorsed candidates. These included Mayor Terry Schrunk, State Labor Commissioner Norman Nilsen, Third District Congresswoman Edith Green and United States Senator Richard Neuberger. Kaufman later was appointed by Schrunk to the mayor's public solicitations committee, which screened applications for permits to solicit contributions for charitable purposes.

KAUFMAN IS PROUD of his role as the sparkplug in establishing the Machinists District 24 Federal Credit Union in the 1950s. In recognition of his work, he was given Account #1.

He also helped retirees obtain treatment for their medical problems.

The new Hall of Fame member served on the planning committee that in the mid-1960s built the present Machinists Building at 3645 SE 32nd Ave. just off Powell Boulevard. Prior to that, Machinists locals rented office space in the old Steamfitters Local 235 building at Southwest Third Avenue and Columbia Street near the old Labor Temple.

KAUFMAN REPRESENTED Lodge 1005 at annual meetings of labor organizations holding shares in the non-profit Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company and served on its board of directors. The l01-year-old, labor-owned, non-profit company publishes the Northwest Labor Press.

In addition to being a Gold Card member of the IAMAW, Kaufman is a 50-year member of the Masonic Lodge and a life member of the Milwaukie Elks Lodge.

While Ralph was busy in the labor movement, his wife Solveig worked for 17 years as a secretary in the office of Woodstock Elementary School near their home. They have two sons, Murlan, who lives in the Portland area, and Richard, of Nevada. They also have four grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. A grandson, Dan, is a member of Portland Musicians Local 99.

AFTER THEY RETIRED in 1971, the Kaufmans spent 25 years as "snowbirds," living six months in Palm Springs, Calif., and six months in Portland. While in southern California, Ralph became a champion shuffleboard player and has many trophies attesting to his prowess.

Earlier this year the Kaufmans moved from their longtime southeast Portland home to an assisted living apartment complex in Beaverton. They celebrated their 65th wedding anniversary with a party in the complex's dining room. Ralph said that "over 100 people attended the big wing-ding."


THE FAT CATS keep getting fatter, as The Washington Spectator newsletter points out.

Said The Spectator: "The salaries of corporate executives rose by 571 percent between 1990 and 2000, while workers' pay increased 37 percent, barely ahead of inflation, which rose by 32 percent. And the chief executives of the 52 companies that laid off 1,000 or more workers last year earned more than other CEOs.

"Those grating numbers come in a joint report by the Institute for Policy Studies, a Washington watchdog group, and United for a Fair Economy, based in Boston.

"IF THE SALARIES of working stiffs had grown at the same rate as those of the CEOs, the workers would have earned an average of $120,491 last year instead of $24,611. If the $5.15 an hour federal minimum wage had grown at the CEO rate, it would now be $25.50 an hour..."


WAS POLITICS a factor in the Bush Administration's decision to give the military jet fighter contract to Lockheed Martin instead of Boeing? Although Lockheed Martin is based on the East Coast, it will spend millions in Texas, the home state of White House occupant George Bush II. Did the fact that Lockheed Martin will create thousands of manufacturing jobs in Texas in turning out the new-age jets for the U.S. Armed Forces influence the Bush Pentagon's decision?

Was Boeing hurt by the fact that voters in Washington State voted against George Bush II in the 2000 election?


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