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Jobs are "Job One" at Oregon AFL-CIO Conference

September 26, 2011

EUGENE, Ore. - At the Oregon AFL-CIO's annual conference that began on Sunday, one of the liveliest events is expected to be Tuesday's debate featuring candidates for the First Congressional District, the seat vacated by Rep. David Wu. Three Democrats - current state Labor Commissioner Brad Avakian, state Sen. Suzanne Bonamici and state Rep. Brad Witt - will face off and answer audience questions.

Leah Okin, a member of IATSE Local 15, the stagehands' union in Portland, will be there. She thinks it's important to have a labor-friendly Congressman. Witt is a former union member, but Okin says that won't automatically make him the frontrunner.

"After everything we've seen in Wisconsin in the last year, I think it is really important that we have a candidate who's willing to talk to the unions, and find out what the real deal is behind the agenda that we all try and push, for our own groups and as the collective of the AFL-CIO."

Okin says her union is also concerned about an issue that doesn't get much publicity: passing stronger intellectual property laws. She says an epidemic of bootlegged video online means the people behind the scenes who make movies and music miss out on income from their sales.

Lonnie Nulman, a member of United Steelworkers' Local 7150 in Albany, says he'll be asking about the candidates' ideas for trade agreements that treat American workers and products fairly.

"My biggest thing is empowering and keeping the middle class, so my kids will have something to grab onto. Manufacturing jobs in America, keeping jobs, buying American, creating jobs here for our people, is very important."

Also on Tuesday, many of the convention's 400 delegates will join a rally where plans will be suggested for the future of the U.S. Postal Service.

On Wednesday, convention delegates will hear from Gov. John Kitzhaber, Sen. Ron Wyden and Congressman Peter DeFazio. The convention runs through Sept. 28 at the Hilton Eugene, 66 East 6th Ave., Eugene.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - OR