Labor Pains: Because Being in a Union can be Painful

Oregon: “I never would have believed the depth to which the government could be co-opted into a labor government.”

As an Oregonian, I can tell you that the state’s government may as well be officially run by union bosses. Yesterday, Eugene’s Register-Guard ran a lengthy piece demonstrating just how firmly Oregon’s political machine sits in the pocket of labor officials. The situation has left one state senator saying, “I never would have believed the depth to which the government could be co-opted into a labor government.” But seeing – or reading – is believing.

Union bosses gained their power through their members’ forced dues money. The paper broke down the numbers:

They were among the triumphant Democrats’ most deep-pocketed contributors, furnishing nearly $3 million – about 21 percent of the campaign money contributed – to successful Democratic legislative candidates and fellow Democratic Gov. Ted Kulongoski.

And labor officials have managed to put their own in places of power in both the legislative and executive branches:

Consider the makeup of the House Business and Labor Committee, where many of the union-backed bills are being worked. Of the four Democrats, Chairman Mike Schaufler, D-Happy Valley, was once in a laborers’ union. Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, worked as a union representative of the Pacific Northwest Carpenters. Before becoming a legislator, Rep. Diane Rosenbaum used to work as a union lobbyist. Then she spent her interims strapping on a tool belt and working as a unionized technician for Qwest …

Labor’s critics point not just to the legislative session but also to the governor’s own staff as proof of its political clout. After the November election, Kulongoski reorganized his staff, naming the Oregon Education Association’s top lobbyist, Chip Terhune, as his chief of staff, and the former president of the AFL-CIO Oregon, Tim Nesbitt, as a deputy chief of staff.

One taxpayer advocate said: “From our perspective, the public employee unions are running this state and Ted Kulongoski is merely their pawn.”

Of course, the first legislative item on Big Labor’s agenda is a package that “lets union organizers collect signatures on cards or petitions rather than allowing employers to require a workplace campaign followed by an election on whether to form a union. The bill is part of a package that includes a ban on employers’ use of taxpayer dollars to influence workers about unionization … and the legal right for workers to skip employer-ordered meetings to promote management’s views on politics, unions and religion.”

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