Labor Leaders Go Back to School
Sometimes it’s easier to create change working from the inside out, instead of working from the outside in.
That basic idea is what inspired a coalition of Oregon unions to create the Oregon Labor Candidate School (OLCS) last year. The “school” is a training program that gives union members the tools they need to seek, and win, elected office.
“We saw a real need for more elected leaders who embodied middle class values and would fight for Oregon’s working families,“ said Sarah Baessler, a founding member of the OLCS and ONA’s Director of Health Policy and Government Relations.
The school’s six-month curriculum trains union members in fundraising, public speaking and campaign logistics; from hiring a campaign treasurer to evaluating campaign literature. The program also brings in elected leaders and political consultants as guest speakers and pairs participants with an elected mentor.
OLCS’s inaugural class of eleven students graduated this month. Some have already had success.
Brian Adams, an International Association of Fire Fighters member, successfully ran for a seat on the Sandy City Council while attending the school. Speaking to OLCS members, Adams credited the school for giving him the support he needed to succeed.
“I recently won a competitive race and cannot give enough praise to the board and staff with the OLCS, who personally met with me to tailor a winning strategy. The work put in by this team is invaluable not only for cultivating strong candidates, but also for championing the labor cause,” Adams said.
Some of Adams’ classmates are also eyeing campaigns. Rob Nosse, an ONA labor representative from SE Portland and OLCS graduate, is considering a run for state representative.
“I’ve always been interested in public service, and this program has helped me be prepared should the right opportunity arise,” Nosse said.
A longtime labor organizer and activist, Nosse has firsthand experience working on the issues that matter to organized labor and middle class workers. This familiarity makes him believe he can make a positive difference for his community, and he thinks OLCS’s training gives him the campaign knowledge necessary to make it happen.
“The OLCS gives you a realistic understanding of what it takes to win,” Nosse said.
Winning public office would give Nosse an opportunity to make positive changes from the inside. Something the OLCS hopes all its graduates go on to do.
Are you a union member interested in pursuing public office? Oregon Labor Candidate School is now accepting applications for its 2013 class. The 2013 program will meet one weekend a month from April to September, 2013. For more information visit the OLCS website at www.oregonsvoiceonline.com/olcs/.
Applications are due by February 28, 2013.