The Labor Day Picnic Returns—but Not in Portland

Oaks Amusement Park booted the unions, but they found a new spot to party with pols.

Labor Day picnic at Oaks Park. (Wesley Lapointe)

For two decades, the Labor Day picnic at Oaks Amusement Park was the starter’s pistol for Oregon’s campaign season.

The picnic, hosted by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, drew crowds upwards of 10,000 to the Southeast Portland fun park. Among them were most of Oregon’s Democratic Party politicians, who arrived to display solidarity with the most powerful force (and the holder of the largest checkbook) in progressive politics.

The picnic was canceled along with everything else in 2020, and it didn’t return in the two subsequent years, as Oaks Amusement Park management said it lacked the staffing for such a party. (Later, the park was confronted by a union drive of its own workers.)

On Monday, Sept. 4, the Labor Day picnic returns, but well outside Portland city limits.

The new location? The Clackamas County Fairgrounds in Canby. The venue change was first reported in February by the NW Labor Press.

This isn’t an even-numbered election year, so it’s hard to predict turnout by politicians. (Aspirants for the expanded Portland City Council are already announcing their candidacies, but the new ranked-choice voting system eliminates a May primary and they don’t have to file until next July.) The only official to formally announce an appearance Monday is U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas (D-Ore.), although WW has been told other high-ranking officeholders will stop by.

Portland will still get a demonstration of organized labor’s heft: A strike at Powell’s City of Books has shut down the local bookstore’s flagship store for the day, The Oregonian reported last week, as workers bargain the terms of a new contract.

Correction: This post incorrectly stated that U.S. Rep. Suzanne Bonamici had announced an appearance at the Labor Day picnic, rather than U.S. Rep. Andrea Salinas. WW regrets the error.

Willamette Week’s reporting has concrete impacts that change laws, force action from civic leaders, and drive compromised politicians from public office. Support WW's journalism today.