Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

December 4, 1998

THE NEWEST MEMBER of Labor's Hall of Fame, Jerry Lantto of Coos Bay, worked at the Woodworkers Union headquarters in Portland's south metro area before his retirement two years ago. The Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council sponsors the Hall of Fame and decides on its honorees at its monthly meeting in the 1125 SE Madison St. offices of the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO. Lantto, 63, retired after serving for four years as the assistant directing business representative at the International Association of Machinists (IAM)-Woodworkers regional office in the Clackamas County city of Gladstone. Before the International Woodworkers of America (IWA)-U.S.A. merged with the Machinists, Lantto was the auditor at the Woodworkers' headquarters in Gladstone in the same modern wooden structure that became the merged union's regional office.

It was 40 years ago that Lantto joined the Woodworkers upon taking a job at Cooshead Timber after working in construction for two years as a member of the Laborers. He put in 11 years at Cooshead, then took a job in a Georgia-Pacific sawmill. In 1970 he became a field representative of his union, IWA Local 3-116, the Coos Bay-North Bend area's biggest labor organization. The figure 3 in front of the local's number indicated that the local was in IWA Region 3, which was headquartered in the aforementioned Gladstone building.

IN THE HEYDAY of the timber industry, Local 3-116 boasted a membership of more than 5,000. Today, because of the various environmental and socioeconomic factors that caused sharp cutbacks in the supply of timber, the IAM-Woodworkers Division has fewer than 300 members on Oregon's South Coast. Before hard times forced Local 3-116 to sell its office building, the spacious meeting hall was the site of many Oregon AFL-CIO conventions.

Lantto was active in regional and state AFL-CIO labor organizations as a delegate from the Woodworkers. For a dozen years he led the Southwestern Oregon Central Labor Council as its president. One of his biggest projects in that job was putting together the council's annual Labor Day picnic, a major public event in the North Bend-Coos Bay area attended by thousands of workers and family members, plus many dignitaries including the governor and members of Congress. Lantto also was a fixture on the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board in the 1970s, '80s and into the '90s. For a number of years he chaired the state labor federation's influential Finance Review Committee. Although retired, he represents IAM-W261 as a delegate to the central labor council, state labor federation and Oregon Machinists Council.

In Lantto's years as labor council president he served on the Coos County government's Budget Committee. Active in the Democratic Party locally, he serves as a precinct committee person in the neighborhood where he lives.

GERALD ROY LANTTO was born in Michigan's Upper Peninsula in the town of Calumet. His family moved to Coos Bay when he was two years old.

He and his wife Rosetta, married for 44 years, have five grown children and seven grandchildren. Son David is a business agent for Carpenters Local 1001; daughter Sandy belongs to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555; son Jerry, a United Parcel Service driver, is a Teamsters Union member, and there are two other daughters, Karma, and Tina, whose husband Robert George is a Teamster. "We're a union family," Lantto told the Northwest Labor Press.


"SWEATSHOPS AT SEA," a seagoing exhibit sponsored by the International Transport Workers Federation, will dock at West Coast ports including Portland and Seattle early in 1999.

Labor Notes, a monthly news magazine published in Detroit, Mich., gave this report on the exhibit:

"Life at sea isn't romantic at all for the tens of thousands of seafarers who toil in deplorable conditions on runaway-flag ships, Under flag-of-convenience shipping, these ships - which carry more than half the world's shipping tonnage - are registered in a country different than that of the real owner. Amid a maze of jurisdictions and ownerships, ship owners pay few taxes and avoid safety regulations. Dangerous on-board conditions, stress, fatigue from overwork, and inadequate medical attention are just some of the conditions faced by the flag-of-convenience seafarers, a majority of whom are not unionized.

"TO STEP UP awareness about the increasingly globalized industry and the need for international trade unionism, the International Transport Workers Federation has sent an exhibition to sea on board the MV Global Mariner...

"The merchant ship's cargo holds have been converted to house an art exhibit, an interactive CD-ROM center, and a cinema showing broadcast-quality films, videos, and an animation film for kids. Local musicians and artists, along with national union displays, will be featured."


"THE RICH GET RICHER," according to The Washington Spectator. The newsletter went on to report:

"The richest 20 percent of the American population, which received 49 percent of the total national income in 1996, got a raise in 1997 to 49.4 percent, according to the Census Bureau's annual report on America's wealth and poverty. Middle-income households' income rose to a median level of $37,005 a year in 1997, their third consecutive annual increase.

"But the really poor got poorer. The current estimates of Food First, a non-partisan advocacy group based in Oakland, Calif., are that 30 million Americans are hungry, between five and seven million are homeless, more than 40 million have no health insurance, and the United States has the highest rate of child poverty of any industrialized nation."


ON THE SUBJECT of health insurance, the United States, the richest nation on earth, is the only industrialized democracy which does not provide universal health care. Until 1996, when South Africa adopted universal health care, that nation and the U.S. were the only remaining countries under the thumb of the health insurance industry and political conservatives for whom not-for profit health insurance for the masses is an anathema.


A LIVING WAGE for workers employed by firms providing contracted-out services for the California metropolis of San Jose has been set at $9.50 an hour with benefits, and $10.75 without benefits. San Francisco city officials are considering following suit.


THE BIG BUYOUT FIRM of Kohlberg Kravis Roberts & Company in New York City has sold 20 million of the Safeway supermarket chain's common shares, the New York Times said, based on a report from the Dow Jones financial news service.

"Safeway said the sale was meant to put more of the company's shares into the public float," the Times reported, adding: "Of the 20 million shares sold, about 17 million were owned by Kohlberg Kravis outright and three million were owned by an affiliate, SSI Equity...

The sale brings the firm's stake down to 13.2 percent from 16.7 percent."

The Times estimated that KKR made $858 million in the stock sale and SSI $151.5 million.


IT'S FUNNY (peculiar, not ha-ha) that companies with reputations as liberal employers are opposed to their employees joining a labor union. We saw that in Portland some time back when Hotel Employees and Restaurant Employees Local 9 tried to organize workers at an east side eatery, Old Wives Tale. We're seeing it again locally as the International Longshore and Warehouse Union seeks to sign up workers at the stores of Powell's Books. Owner Michael Powell, whose reputation as a liberal recently stirred up the wrath of the Republican conservatives who run the Oregon Senate, sent letters to his 325 employees admonishing them against exchanging his paternalistic policies for a labor union. And, from the other side of the continent comes word that the Ben & Jerry's ice cream company, another paternalistic employer with a reputation as a beacon of liberalism, is challenging an organizing drive by Electrical Workers Local 300 at the frozen confection company's Vermont plant.


PHONY IS THE WORD for Fox Television's slogan about its news programs: "We Report. You Decide."

Fox TV, owned by right-wing media billionaire Rupert Murdoch, tries to give the impression that its news shows are as bias-pure as the driven snow. But when one listens long enough to its talking heads and sees who they have as news sources and talk-show guests, it seems apparent that Fox is advancing the political and economic agenda of its Australian-born owner.

Fox recently dropped plans to air a television show based on "Strange Justice," a prize-winning investigative book by two Wall Street Journal reporters which said Anita Hill was truthful when she charged Clarence Thomas, now a Bush-appointed U.S. Supreme Court justice, with sexual harassment.

In reporting how Murdoch killed the Fox TV drama because of his friendship for ultra-conservative Thomas, the New York Times said:

"MR. MURDOCH HAS A HISTORY of supporting conservative politicians as well as curtailing projects that might affect the financial health of his company. Four years ago, he dropped the BBC news service from Star-TV, his Hong Kong-based satellite service, after the Chinese (Communist) Government protested its coverage of Chinese dissidents."

The newspaper also recalled that one of Murdoch's book publishing companies cancelled plans to print a book critical of China, which was written by Chris Fatten, the last British governor of Hong Kong. The book has since been printed by a non-Murdoch publishing house.


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