Candidate visits PCUN, union members
Labor Commissioner candidate Christina Stephenson visited Woodburn on Friday, spending time with PCUN staff, farmworkers, and union members picketing the Amazon construction project.
Stephenson, a small business owner and civil rights attorney, is among seven candidates vying for the Bureau of Labor and Industries commissioner post. The other candidates are restauranteur Cheri Helt, Yamhill County Commissioner Casey M Kulla, small business owner and real estate broker Brent T Barker, Chris Henry, Robert Neuman and Aaron Baca. The latter three declined to submit voter's pamphlet information.
Stephenson first visited with farmworkers to hold a listening session, a group that earned the right to overtime pay for the first time this year through the state legislative session. Farm work had been excluded from overtime since 1938.
PCUN Executive Director Reyna Lopez lauded Stephenson's visit.
"Our Labor Commissioner must be someone who can center a diverse workforce in the services the agency provides to Oregonians working for a wage across the state," Lopez said. "Christina Stephenson will be an asset as labor commissioner because she cares deeply about the conditions of every place of employment, cross-industry."
Both PCUN and Oregon AFL-CIO endorse Stephenson.
"From farmworkers to warehouse workers, we know we can count on Christina to listen and problem solve by always putting accountability, equity, trust-building and compliance at the forefront," Lopez continued. "This will empower our most vulnerable workers, while mitigating risk for employers. PCUN's goal is to show our Labor Commissioner the need to ensure the agricultural industry is on a path to reducing violations for the wellbeing and sustainability of the workers, and the industry at-large."
Lopez stressed that BOLI must be culturally competent and accessible to Oregon workers, especially those susceptible to barriers such as language, disabilities or lack of internet and technology."
Stephenson followed her PCUN visit with a trip across town to meet with members of the iron-workers union and other trade union members at the Amazon construction site. The union members have been protesting Amazon's construction wages, which they say undercut standard rates for certain trades by using out-of-state contractors.
Union officials underscore that BOLI is a vital agency for preserving prevailing wages.
"It is essential for the future of our skilled local workforce that Oregon's Labor Commissioner understands the benefits that prevailing wage and registered apprenticeship programs bring to our communities," Ironworkers Local 29 Business Manager Jason Fussell, Business Manager said. "Christina Stephenson's willingness to stand on the picket lines with our members and protest the hiring of out-of-state contractors that do not invest in the local community clearly indicates her commitment to fighting for working Oregonians."
Oregon AFL-CIO President Graham Trainor said the union endorsement of Stephenson hinges on her worker advocacy.
"Meeting with such a diverse range of workers in one day is exceptional for any candidate, but for a hopeful Labor Commissioner it shows Oregon's workers that we have a true champion who is serious about the job and understands what our state's complex economy and workforce need from the Bureau of Labor and Industries," Trainor said.
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