Oregon Unions Plan Rally at U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader’s Office After He Votes Against COVID-19 Stimulus

Activists hope to change his mind on the PRO Act, which would give labor unions more power to organize. Schrader voted against it in 2020.

U.S. Rep. Kurt Schrader (D-Ore.) was the only Democrat in Oregon's congressional delegation to vote against President Joe Biden's COVID-19 relief package, which sends $1,400 checks to most Americans. In fact, Schrader was one of just two Democratic representatives in the U.S. House to vote no. 

Schrader is certainly consistent: He voted against a previous stimulus bill in December that sent people $2,000 checks. That's $3,400 in stimulus checks Schrader has voted to reject. His office did not respond to a request for comment on his vote.

The most recent vote was the last straw for local labor unions.

The Oregon AFL-CIO is organizing unions, workers and partner organizations for an afternoon rally on Monday, March 8 (coinciding with International Women's Day), in both Oregon City and Salem, where Schrader's district offices are located. (He represents Oregon's 5th Congressional District, which stretches from the coast across the central Willamette Valley.)

The rally was prompted by Schrader's vote against the COVID-19 relief package and his vote against increasing the federal minimum wage, says Christy O'Neill, Oregon AFL-CIO's secretary treasurer. But this rally also serves as a way to urge him to vote yes on the Protecting the Right to Organize Act next week, a bill he voted against in 2020.

The PRO Act would expand the rights of labor unions to organize, especially among independent contractors. It also aims to reduce the gender pay gap through collective bargaining. This bill was proposed last year, but it didn't survive the U.S. Senate, and this year it's made it's way back to the table.

"It is the most significant worker empowerment legislation since the New Deal," O'Neill says. "The PRO Act is a historic opportunity to rewrite the rules of economy, and it will finally allow workers to stand together in unions freely and fairly without fear or intimidation from their employer."

Unions say the bill would particularly benefit women—especially women of color—who've been disproportionately impacted during the COVID-19 pandemic. American women have lost a million more net jobs than men over the past year.

In Oregon City, Oregon Womxn Labor Leaders is gathering activists to attend the 12:15 pm rally, and in Salem, the event will be hosted by Oregon AFL-CIO and Marion-Polk-Yamhill Central Labor Chapter.

In a press release, Oregon AFL-CIO president Graham Trainor excoriated Schrader.

"Congressman Kurt Schrader has consistently stood with wealthy special interests and corporate America over the past decade, including his vote against the PRO Act in 2020 and most recently his shameful vote against the American Rescue Plan, the critical COVID-19 relief package passed by the U.S. House on Feb. 27," Trainor says. "Working families in Oregon's 5th Congressional District expect and deserve their leaders to fight for them, especially during a deadly global pandemic."

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