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Readers sound off on congressional action supporting labor unions, Sen. Ginny Burdick's retirement and drug prices.

Our faith traditions compel us to advocate for the dignity of all workers, for their right to have a voice in the workplace about conditions affecting their well-being.

In Portland and across the United States, we have seen American heroes in grocery stores, post offices and hospitals. During COVID-19, more became "essential workers" and many had to risk their lives going to work in unsafe conditions.

We stood with workers at a local hospital as they spent the year trying to negotiate fair and safe working conditions. We were with fledgling fast-food unions, with hospital support workers seeking fair pay and safe working conditions, with Amazon employees demanding the right to take bathroom breaks, and letter carriers resisting the efforts of the Postal Service to slow the delivery of vote-by-mail ballots.

The Protecting the Right to Organize Act was passed by the U.S. House last year but was blocked in the Senate. This year, we have another chance to make history.

It's time to pass the PRO Act. It would hold employers accountable and institute civil penalties against employers who illegally fire or retaliate against workers who attempt to form a union. Current penalties are a drop in the bucket, meaning employers routinely retaliate against pro-union workers. The bosses know they can undermine the organizing campaign and will face no real consequences.

The PRO Act would put the decision of whether or not to form a union back where it belongs — in the hands of workers, free from employer interference.

The Rev. Cecil Prescod

Chair, Jobs with Justice Faith/Labor Committee

Northeast Portland

Burdick's new job comes with a steep price

Your April 19 article on Gov. Kate Brown's appointment of state Sen. Ginny Burdick (D-Portland) to the Pacific Northwest Electric Power and Conservation Planning Council left out a key point.

If Burdick is approved for a three-year term on the council, beginning Nov. 1, not only will she make $120,000 a year, but she'll also likely end up with a much fatter PERS pension payout than her 25 years of legislative service alone would have provided. That's because lifetime retirement benefits under PERS are designed to provide approximately 45% of a state employee's final average salary at retirement. Final average salary is generally the average of the highest three consecutive years or a third of total salary in the last 36 months of employment.

As a legislator, Burdick has an annual salary of just $31,200, plus $149 each day of the legislative session to pay for meals and lodging. After three years on the Council, Burdick's pension will be calculated using her new substantially higher salary, potentially rewarding her with hundreds of thousands of extra dollars over here lifetime. This when PERS is already overwhelmed with billions in unfunded liabilities.

Brown played the same game in 2017 when she put then-state Sen. Richard Devlin (D-Tualatin) and state Sen. Ted Ferrioli (R-John Day) on the council.

This is all true grift at taxpayer expense.

Bill MacKenzie

Lake Oswego

New drug board not in state's best interests

I was recently vaccinated for COVID-19, and boy was that a good feeling.

This past year has felt like a bad dream. But, thanks to the development of multiple vaccines in record time, it finally feels like the nightmare is coming to a close.

As we start to reopen and get accustomed to our "new normal," I hope we will all keep the importance of continued biopharmaceutical innovation top of mind moving forward. Because, the reality is, without a robust American pharmaceutical sector, we would not be where we are today.

That is why I was troubled to learn that the Legislature is considering implementing a Drug Affordability Board to set the prices of medications via Senate Bill 844.

While establishing this board might play well politically for some in our Legislature, it is simply just not in best interest of our most vulnerable patients waiting for new cures and treatments.

It is not hard to understand how allowing a group of appointed officials to set the prices of medications in Oregon could have a negative impact on funding dedicated to the research and development of new medications.

That being said, I do applaud our Legislature for trying to address high costs for Oregon patients, but I encourage them to take a closer look at insurance companies and pharmacy benefit managers who are actually responsible for the majority of out of pocket spending for patients.

I hope our legislature will do the right thing and find a better solution than SB 844 that doesn't leave patients waiting for new innovations out in the cold.

Rachel McClain


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