HERNANDEZ RESIGNS: After U.S. District Judge Ann Aiken on Feb. 20 rejected a plea from state Rep. Diego Hernandez (D-East Portland) to block a vote to expel him from the Oregon House, Hernandez resigned Feb. 21 rather than wait to see if 40 or more of the 60 members of the House would eject him. A couple of years ago, Hernandez appeared poised for higher office. But since WW first reported March 25, 2020, that a former girlfriend had filed for a restraining order against him—later withdrawn—other women came forward with complaints of harassment, leading the House Conduct Committee earlier this month to vote for his expulsion. Rather than face a floor vote, Hernandez, 33, told Oregon Public Broadcasting on Sunday night he would resign the seat he had just won for a third time in November. Multnomah County commissioners will now begin the process of selecting his replacement—a process that will likely not include the second-place finisher in the November election, community organizer Ashton Simpson. Although Simpson earned a slew of endorsements from Democratic interest groups eager to be rid of Hernandez, he ran as a member of the Working Families Party, not as a Democrat. He subsequently became a Democrat but not in time to meet the statutory requirement for consideration for the appointment.
LIGHTS OUT AT MAHONIA HALL: After an ice storm swept across Oregon over Valentine's Day weekend, the largest power outage in state history left 330,000 Oregonians without electricity. Among them: Gov. Kate Brown. The lights went out at the Oregon governor's mansion (and in the surrounding neighborhood) at 1:55 am on Feb. 13. Power was restored at 12:48 pm on Feb. 20, Portland General Electric said. Brown slept elsewhere. "The governor and first gentleman stayed at a secure location, which for safety reasons we can't disclose, while power was being restored," says spokesman Charles Boyle. "From there and the Capitol, she continued with her duties, responding to the emergency and making sure state resources were being deployed to help Oregonians who needed them." As of Feb. 23, 13,094 customers of PGE remained without power.
AMAZON WAREHOUSE WORKERS PROTEST CONDITIONS: More than 50 warehouse employees and community members joined a pro-unionization rally Feb. 20 outside an Amazon warehouse in Troutdale that has seen 217 COVID-19 cases. The employees alleged unsafe working conditions and argued they need union protections—the latest example of nationwide labor organizing at Amazon distribution centers. An employee of a North Portland Amazon warehouse, who identified himself as Keith, said he is a military veteran and formerly homeless. "None of that was as difficult as the year and a half I have spent working at an Amazon warehouse," Keith said. "It is the worst." Brian Denning, an organizer for the Amazon Workers Solidarity Campaign, said during the rally that social distancing inside the Troutdale warehouse was "virtually impossible" during the pandemic. Amazon defends its safety practices, and adds: "Amazon already offers what unions are requesting for employees." As WW previously reported, the Troutdale facility requires employees to sign strict confidentiality agreements—a practice that labor lawyers describe as draconian. More than 450 Amazon employees at eight workplaces statewide have tested positive for the virus.
BROKEN WINDOWS FOR CAP AND TRADE OPPONENTS: The Oregon Association of Nurseries got an unwanted surprise over the weekend. Executive director Jeff Stone says the first employee to arrive at the organization's Wilsonville offices Monday morning found 11 windows broken, apparently by somebody with a large slingshot and a big pile of rocks—one rock was still embedded in a conference room wall. Stone says there was no sign of theft or other vandalism. Shaun Jillions, executive director of Oregon Manufacturing and Commerce, says somebody shot a hole in the window of his organization's office in Salem a couple of weeks ago, also without any theft. Both groups have been outspoken opponents of cap and trade legislation proposed by Democrats in recent legislative sessions. Stone says he has no idea why his group was targeted or whether it had anything to do with OAN's climate stance. "We're very active politically," Stone says, "but we haven't received any threats or communication of any kind." Jillions is more suspicious: "It's probably the environmental stuff. Of course, I can't prove that."