With the Oregon Primary
Election in the rearview mirror, Council 75 is currently engaged in a series of
candidate forums that are the first steps in ultimately choosing who Oregon
AFSCME will endorse in this fall's General Election.
Some such forums have already
occurred in the Portland area, Salem and Coos Bay. More are scheduled for
greater Portland, Eastern Oregon and elsewhere. These forums are important and
the cornerstone of the union's democratic election endorsement process.
There is sometimes concern
expressed by members and outsiders about union endorsements, frequently paired
with criticism that such endorsements are a "top down" decision. That simply is
not true for AFSCME, which very much employs a "bottom up" process, starting
with the local candidate forums. Participants in these local forums make
recommendations to the Council 75 Political Action Committee (PAC), which
reviews them and in turn forwards recommendations to the Oregon AFSCME
Executive Board. The statewide, democratically elected E-Board has the final
say on the union's endorsements, but it is a rare occasion with some unusual
circumstance involved for the local endorsement recommendations to be
overturned. Generally speaking, the recommended candidates from the local
forums get the union's endorsement, making these grassroots events a vital link
in the process.
If you are interested in
participating in any of the remaining local forums, contact either Mary Botkin or Eva
Rippeteau in Portland at
(503) 239-9858 or (800) 792-0045 for the remaining schedule.
Here are some other
details regarding the AFSCME endorsement process:
- Federal Elections — Council 75's PAC and Executive Board
make the endorsement recommendation decisions on all U.S. Senate and U.S.
House of Representative races. The International union does not
contribute to any candidates for Congress that Council 75 has not
endorsed. The only federal race that is decided by the International
Executive Board is for U.S. President; Oregon AFSCME Executive Director Ken Allen is an International
Vice President and E-Board member.
- Oregon Elections — All endorsement decisions are made in
Oregon. The statewide PAC consists of about 25 rank-and-file union
members, representing each of Oregon's five congressional districts. The
PAC membership includes Democrats, Republicans, Libertarians and
independents (non-affiliated voters). These members work for cities,
counties, special districts and the state; some work in the private sector
or the childcare industry. Union staff members have no vote on
elections (Governor, Secretary of State, Attorney General) the union insists
that all candidates fill out a questionnaire about issues affecting working
families. The PAC then conducts interviews with the candidates; endorsement
decisions are based only on issues affecting members' jobs and workplaces. In
legislative races (Oregon House and Senate) members from each congressional
district interview the candidates in the local forums who have returned the
working family issues questionnaire. These recommendations then go to the
statewide PAC and union Executive Board.
During each election
cycle the PAC also determines the contribution amount for each candidate. All
Oregon endorsement decisions and contribution levels are then referred to the
Council 75 Executive Board, which is made up of about 90 member-leaders from
across the state for their input and approval.
- PEOPLE Dollars/Hard Dollars — Public Employees Organized to Promote
Legislative Equality (PEOPLE) is the national union's PAC. PEOPLE dollars
are the voluntary contributions that members make. These voluntary
contributions are called "hard dollars" and 100 percent of these
contributions go to the International union. Hard dollars are spent on
federal races, i.e. presidential and congressional elections.
- Regular Dues/Soft Dollars — Council 75 uses 20 cents per month per
member for political purposes. These funds are called "soft dollars" and
are spent solely on candidates for statewide offices and/or the Oregon
Legislature. Oregon AFSCME also maintains a $3 per month Ballot Measure
Fund that is used to fight bad ballot measures and support good measures.