by Clarice Gerlach, RN, E&GW Cabinet Member
Stand up, speak out.
These four simple words were the motto of the recent Oregon AFL-CIO Convention that I had the pleasure of attending in Eugene this last September. As a nurse going to a convention that was made up of workers from all over Oregon ranging from Machinists, Postal Workers, Bakers, Theater Actors, Steelworkers, AFSCME and others too many to name, I was impressed at the unity and energy that was present. As a Critical Care nurse, our own AACN past motto was Stand Tall. Currently our motto is Together, Stronger, Bolder. These words were meant for us to act as advocates for our patients and to continue the progress we are making in collaboration with all health care workers. After attending this convention, I believe we could use these words to mean advocates for ourselves in our jobs and others in the workforce around Oregon.
I had the opportunity to sit in on the Committee: Constitution and By-Laws. We reviewed wording in the by-laws and voted on changes that strengthened it.
There were 250 delegates from all the unions that attended, representing around 76,000 members. We had opportunity to talk with members of the various unions and discuss their roadblocks and achievements. Everyone had some of the same issues with membership engagement. We had many educational sessions to help us maintain and grow members.
We heard from local, national, and international union leaders, Bob Baugh, Arlene Holt-Baker, and Jim Sinclair. It’s comforting to know that these leaders are involved in ensuring union stability.
The list of speakers included politicians, Jeff Merkley, Tina Kotek, Peter DeFazio, Ron Wyden, and our own Governor, John Kitzhaber. Every presentation emphasized how important it was for everyone to stay informed, get involved and protect our workforce. We heard from the candidates running for the open Congressional seat: Brad Witt, Suzanne Bonamici, and Brad Avakian. What a treat it was to hear from all some of the issues they are currently involved in to maintain our way of life. They all collectively support the union movement.
We nominated and re-elected our current President Tom Chamberlain and Treasurer Barbara Byrd. These are two amazing people that we are lucky to have leading us into the future.
I am very encouraged by all that I heard at the convention, that Oregon is very progressive in maintaining its workforce and supported by its politicians. I walked away with inspiration to keep up my involvement because it was very clear that a group standing as one is powerful and can accomplish goals that one person could not do alone.