Oregon’s Largest Private Sector Union Announces Plan to Recall Labor-Friendly Lawmaker

United Food and Commercial Workers targets Paul Holvey after cannabis unionization bill fails.

The state’s largest private sector union announced today it will try to recall one of organized labor’s biggest allies in the Oregon House.

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 put a target on state Rep. Paul Holvey (D-Eugene) after the failure of the union’s top legislative priority this session, House Bill 3183, which would have eased unionization of the cannabis industry.

In a statement, UFCW highlighted the death of HB 3183. “Just this session [Holvey] helped out scandal-plagued cannabis company La Mota by killing legislation supporting workplace rights for cannabis workers, just months after his caucus’s campaign fund was showered in La Mota’s cash contributions,” the union said. “Those same workers still face unsafe conditions, wage theft, and retaliation for attempting to unionize.”

Holvey is one of the longest-serving members of the House—he was appointed in 2004—and, as a retired representative of the Northwest Carpenters Union, a labor stalwart. That’s why he’s the chairman of the House Committee on Business and Labor and co-chair of the Joint Ways and Means Subcommittee on Capital Construction, in addition to serving on other committees that reflect his seniority.

But Holvey did not advance UFCW’s priority bill, which would have required cannabis companies to put their willingness to sign “labor peace agreements” in writing when they obtain or renew their licenses. Opponents raised questions whether such a requirement was legal, and the bill now appears dead.

“Workers fighting to organize deserve fair treatment, safe working conditions, and a path to a strong contract,” said UFCW Local 555 spokesman Miles Eshaia. “Rep. Holvey’s actions don’t reflect the promises he made during his campaign. Unacceptably, he has instead undermined efforts to improve workplaces and protect workers’ rights.”

Related: Shemia Fagan Joined an Industry Fighting Against the Unionization of Cannabis Workers

UFCW cited two other slights in its announcement: Holvey’s 2019 vote for a bill that trimmed pension benefits for public employees and a 2022 decision (when he briefly served as House speaker) not to pursue more assistance for workers on the front lines during the pandemic.

“Oregon workers are calling for the removal of Rep. Holvey after his repeated attacks on their livelihoods,” said Dan Clay, president of Local 555. “He has shown that his allegiance lies with large corporations, not with Oregonians. Voters in Holvey’s district deserve a representative who will prioritize their well-being, and they will have an opportunity to express their dissatisfaction with Holvey’s representation.”

Recall efforts around the state are common. Former Gov. Kate Brown faced a slew of them, and at the local level, county commissioners and school board officials have also had to confront them. Such efforts usually fail, however, whether because of a lack of funding and organization or a reluctance to overturn the will of voters.

UFCW now has 90 days to gather signatures. To put Holvey’s recall on the ballot, the union must gather valid signatures equal to 15% of the votes cast for governor in his district in the 2022 election.

Updated on May 23 at 10:30 am with a statement from Holvey:

“It’s quite surprising that UFCW Local 555 would take such retaliatory action over a bill that failed; especially a bill that most people with knowledge of labor law would agree is preempted by the National Labor Relations Act and federal law,” Holvey said. “It would be a disservice to the people of Oregon or union members to advance such a questionable proposal and likely put the state in costly litigation. Their insinuation of any connection to my involvement with the bill’s outcome and La Mota is offensive, totally without merit, and unethical. At the end of the day, I felt it would be irresponsible to pass a bill that our legal counsel advises is preempted by federal law. In my opinion UFCW would better serve their membership by spending their resources on actually organizing workers.”

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