Throughout his career, Brad Avakian has been expanding economic opportunity and ensuring equality for all Oregonians.
Early in his career, as an employment and civil rights attorney, Brad gave voice to workers who were seeking fair wages, better working conditions, and freedom from discrimination in the workplace. Later, as a state legislator, he passed laws to expand collective bargaining rights, crack down on predatory lending, and prohibit discrimination based on sexual orientation. Since 2008, Brad has served as Commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI), where he has stepped up enforcement of Oregon’s civil rights laws and partnered with Oregon’s business and labor communities to strengthen workforce development efforts.
Because he knows that the best way to expand economic opportunity is to expand educational opportunity, Brad has been a steadfast champion for Oregon’s public schools throughout his career. Brad has made good on his top priority as Labor Commissioner: revitalizing career education and job training in our middle schools and high schools, which will prepare more Oregon students for living-wage jobs while ensuring more Oregon businesses have the highly skilled workers they need to succeed. Brad built and led a broad coalition of labor organizations, business interests, trade associations and educational professionals, supported by legislators of both parties, to win dedicated funds for new and expanded career and technical education programs across the state.
As BOLI Commissioner, Brad has increased assistance services for businesses; bolstered employment protections for veterans, uniformed service members and crime victims; and strengthened basic worker protections for timely paychecks and meal and rest periods. Brad carries forward the same values that helped him succeed in the legislature: bringing together diverse interests to accomplish meaningful things for all Oregonians.
Brad also believes that our quality of life in Oregon depends upon continuing our state’s legacy of sound environmental stewardship. As Chair of the Senate Environment and Natural Resources Committee during the historic 2007 session, Brad was named “Consensus Builder of the Year” for his leadership in passing the Clean Indoor Air Act, the Bottle Bill expansion, and the Oregon Renewable Energy Act. He also led a diverse coalition of cities, business organizations, tribes, environmental groups, and farmers in passing the Agricultural and Community Water Act.
Brad’s overriding commitment to a more just and equitable society has roots in the values he learned from his family and his experiences as a young man. Brad is the grandson of Armenian immigrants who fled genocide and oppression to seek a better life in America, and his parents instilled in him a deep sense of patriotism and civic duty. As an Eagle Scout, he learned that hard work and dedication could lead to positive changes in the lives of others, a lesson that was reinforced as he worked his way through law school by managing the YMCA’s Juvenile Restitution Program, which mentored troubled youth and put them to work to repay the victims of their crimes.
Brad earned his undergraduate degree from Oregon State University in 1984 and his law degree from Lewis and Clark in 1990. He helped start the Southwest Music School in Beaverton in 1993, he co-founded the Washington County chapter of the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in 1999, and he served for seven years as Honorary Chair of the Oregon Business Leadership Network – a coalition of employers committed to hiring individuals with disabilities.
Brad was elected to the Oregon House of Representatives in 2002 and to the Oregon Senate in 2006. During his time in the Legislature, the Oregon AFL-CIO named him a “Working Families Champion” and SEIU Local 503 honored him for his work to ensure that more Oregon families have access to quality health care.
Brad was first appointed Labor Commissioner in April 2008 and was then elected to a full term by an overwhelming statewide vote in November 2008. Brad won re-election in 2014 to a full four year term.
Raised in Washington County, Brad is the proud product of Oregon’s public schools. He is married to his high school sweetheart, Debbie, and they have raised their two children, Nathan and Claire, just a few miles from their own childhood homes.