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Members stress the importance, relevance of unions while staffing Oregon State Fair booth
Updated On: Aug 29, 2014
(Top) Richard Swyers hands out goodies to a young fair-goer as fellow Local 2067 member Jerry Arredondo looks on. (Below) Local 2067 welcomed several visitors to the booth during the day. Above are (left to right) Frank Dixon, Chair of the Oregon Democratic Party; Rick Hines; Rick Harding, Chair of the Marion County Democrats; former Local 2067 President Jack Tucker and Richard Swyers.

"Hey, how are you

"Hey, how are you? You wanna bag for your stuff? How about a pencil that changes color?"

 

Longtime Oregon AFSCME and Local 2067 (City of Salem) member and activist Richard Swyers repeats these three questions countless times during a 12-hour, 10 a.m. to 10 p.m. shift at the Oregon AFL-CIO's booth at the state fair. For many years, AFSCME members have staffed the AFL-CIO booth for two days of the Oregon State Fair run, and 2014 was no exception. Council 75 personnel and Corrections members, who offer free child fingerprinting, staff the booth one day, followed by the Swyers-led Local 2067 entourage the second day. Most of the faces change in the booth every couple of hours, but the affable Swyers arrives 90 minutes early to set up and will be there to close it down after dark.

 

Swyers takes a vacation day to do this, and it's gone on for years. Why?

 

"I just think it's really important to let our presence be known, both as the City of Salem's union here in the fair's hometown, and unions in general," says Swyers. "It's a great opportunity for local people to see us out of our official capacity with the city, and to talk to them, and to let them know that unions are alive, active and necessary.

 

"I also think it's important to talk to kids and young people," Swyers continues. "They need to know that despite what they may hear, unions aren't dead."

 

Swyers fills a bag full of AFSCME-logoed, union-made trinkets for a passer-by. A "mood pencil" that changes color with heat. Ditto an eraser. A drinking straw that changes color when cold liquid gets sucked through it. An American flag keychain with an AFSCME logo on the reverse side. Local 2067-branded plastic tumblers and balloons. A few fly swatters left over from a previous year's trinket stash. Plus a brochure outlining AFSCME's presence in Oregon.

 

"I want them to know about us," said Swyers. "We're fighting for a better workplace life — not just for ourselves in Local 2067 or in AFSCME, but really, for everybody. We are America's middle class."

 

The recently retired Jack Tucker, who served as Local 2067's president for 10 years, is another fixture at the fair. Tucker notes there's a lot of discussion between veterans and those at the booth.

 

"There are always a lot of veterans here at the fair, and they're typically pretty easy to spot, because most of them are wearing baseball caps telling you when and where they served," says Tucker. (There is, in fact, a booth selling such hats to veterans near the AFL-CIO booth.) "Many of them stop and talk to us, and the vast majority of them appreciate unions and what we stand for, and how we're fighting the good fight for workers here in our country. They understand that."

 

Meanwhile, an elderly woman strolls by the booth, toting a paper sack full of fair goodies.

 

"Hey, ma'am, how about a nice big bag for your stuff there?" Swyers calls out.

 

And so it goes.

 


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