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Politics Take Center Stage at OR Union Gathering

August 21, 2008

Eugene, OR - In Eugene today, politics will be one hot topic at the biennial meeting of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 44,000 of Oregon's public workers and care providers.

The group endorses candidates and ballot measures. So, executive director Leslie Frane says they take a dim view of Measure 64, which would prevent public employees from contributing to political campaigns through dues. She says they'll also oppose Measure 62, which diverts 15 percent of state lottery funds from education to law enforcement.

"The problem with the ballot measure process here in Oregon is, so often initiatives get nice-sounding titles, but when you dig below the surface, their impact would be devastating on working Oregonians and on the public services that our members provide."

Frane says the group has looked at both proposals to require minimum prison sentences for drug crimes, and they've chosen to back Measure 57 because it includes drug treatment for first-time offenders.

In the coming year, almost all the SEIU members will be in collective bargaining for new contracts, and they'll get a pep talk tonight from visiting national president Andy Stern. He says workers around the country are fed up with corporations getting richer - despite a lagging economy.

"Insurance companies, Wal-Mart and other big employers with huge salaries, have tried to make sure that they have the power they need to take care of themselves, and are not looking out for the people that work for them, or even our country."

Stern says the Oregon SEIU Local 503 is one of the most active in the nation, but that state wages here still lag behind those of comparable states.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR