The Political Landscape for UFCW Local 555
When the 2022 Election Cycle has run its course, two things will be certain. First, the governance of Oregon will be significantly changed, as record numbers of open seats will provide for a large freshman class of elected officials to take office. Second, UFCW 555 will have made a lasting mark on the political landscape throughout our jurisdiction.
We want to highlight the two Oregon state offices on the November ballot: Governor and Labor Commissioner.
The more vitally important race is that of Labor Commissioner (or the more official title “Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries”). The Labor Commissioner has broad regulatory powers over public and private sector workplaces and unilaterally enforces (or doesn’t!) Oregon’s workplace and civil rights laws with the authority of a Circuit Court Judge. The right Labor Commissioner can build on our gains in wage laws and other workplace regulations; the wrong one has the power to reverse hard-fought precedent and signal to businesses that employees are fair game in the name of making a profit. UFCW 555 has endorsed Christina Stephenson, a long-time employment law attorney who has been fighting for workers in court and alongside us in Salem for a number of years.
UFCW 555 has not made an endorsement in the Oregon Governor’s race. Although Democratic nominee Tina Kotek has historically been on the right side of several key issues, she pushed hard for drastic worker benefit cuts in 2019, and throughout the COVID crisis seemed to focus more on protecting employers’ liability and slashing payroll taxes than assisting frontline workers. Members died as our calls for workers compensation protections, healthcare prioritization, and essential worker pay went unheeded. While neither of the other candidates — Republican Christine Drazan and non-partisan Betsy Johnson — are typical labor allies, we haven’t quite bought into the idea that either would be sharply anti-labor, as we’ve had constructive discussions with both.
We have made more inroads into Idaho, working with the Idaho AFL-CIO on legislative priorities and, frankly, trying to weaken as much of the Idaho Legislature’s anti-union bent as possible. Notably, our support of pro-labor Republican Josh Wheeler in the primary for Idaho House of Representatives helped dislodge an anti-union incumbent in the May Primary, and Wheeler is likely to easily win the seat in November.
Moving forward, we expect Democrats to retain majorities in both the Oregon State Senate and Oregon House of Representatives; in Idaho, Republicans are almost certain to keep both chambers. The success of our Oregon agenda — including expansion of organizing rights, improving workers comp protections, and more — will be based not just on whether we have sufficient support in each chamber, but whether we have the right labor champions in each chamber that will prioritize our issues with a fervor and focus that cannot be ignored.
In the future, you will see us introduce tiers of endorsements, so that not every candidate who simply presses the “yes” button for our bills will be endorsed at the same level as those who sweat with us in hearing rooms or stand with us on the picket lines. You will see us focus our support on those who focus their support on us. We have long memories, and election season is a perfect time to reminisce.
UFCW Local 555