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Governor Kitzhaber talks jobs at the AFL-CIO convention

Governor Kitzhaber talks jobs at the AFL-CIO convention

September 28, 2011


When I spoke at your last convention, in 2009, as I was running for Governor, none of us could have envisioned where the country would end up in the election just one year later.

Since the 2010 election, we’ve seen an anti-union, anti-worker agenda unlike anything we’ve seen in recent memory, in terms of its aggression and ambition. In Wisconsin, in Ohio, in Maine, in Florida, and across the country we’ve seen direct attacks on the very basic right of working people to come together in a union and bargain for their wages, hours, and working conditions.    

When people have been out of work for months or years, when families are losing their homes and retirements, when the middle class that built America is shrinking every day, Wisconsin-style attacks are absolutely the wrong approach to our shared economic problems. If there is one thing that’s been made clear by this tactic, it’s this: Attacking unions and union members doesn’t create jobs.

Instead we need to re-build the middle class with good jobs; affordable, high-quality health care; and top-flight education and workforce training.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: American unions built our middle class, and I believe a strong union movement will be key to rebuilding it.

Here in Oregon, I’ve made it clear that we will not go down the Wisconsin road. Instead, I’m focused on doing everything possible to put people back to work and grow our economy, and I’m working with you — as partners and as friends — to do it.

This past legislative session we passed my Cool Schools bill to put people to work across this state in the construction trades doing long overdue energy retrofits and safety upgrades. We know that for every $1 million investment in energy efficiency we can create as many as 15 jobs. This summer, we arranged nearly $11 million in loans to 12 school districts for Cool Schools upgrades,  bringing good family-wage jobs to all parts of the state, including particularly hard-hit areas like Pine Eagle in eastern Oregon, Klamath Falls in the south, and Warrenton on the north coast.

Cool Schools is the first step in a broader initiative to retrofit the huge inventory of inefficient commercial and industrial buildings across the state. This will not only put people back to work but would also give Oregon businesses a tremendous competitive advantage, which could spur even more job growth.

I was also pleased to sign a bill that had been a multi-session priority for the Oregon AFL-CIO, House Bill 2700, to make planning for linear infrastructure projects happen in a sensible way so that we can begin to meet our needs in water, sewer, transportation, and energy infrastructure.

In my budget, I prioritized the Oregon Film and Video tax credit and the legislature followed through on that priority. We need to be sure that tax credits aren’t just handouts but instead have a strong return on investment and are creating the kind of jobs we need in this state. This credit does just that, bringing new money into this state and directly creating good union jobs with benefits. I appreciated the help of the AFL-CIO, IATSE, and many others to get the funding for it in a difficult environment.

I signed HB 3362, brought forward by Rep. Michael Dembrow, to expand career and technical education opportunities for students to enter apprenticeships and careers in the trades. We need to make sure today’s students have the opportunity to learn the skills that will help them land a job that is right for them.

I also want you to know that I remain committed to the Columbia River Crossing – and the 20,000 direct and indirect jobs that will come with it.

We still need to more to put Oregonians back to work. While more than 16,000 jobs have been created this year and unemployment has come down for the state as a whole, half of Oregon’s counties still have double-digit unemployment and our per capita income lags the nation. I am focused on getting Oregonians back to work in all parts of our state — both urban and rural — and I want to assure you today that I will continue to look for every opportunity to put people back to work, to create good jobs, and to work with you all to do it.

Recently the national AFL-CIO announced plans to invest in construction projects to retrofit buildings for energy efficiency.  As soon as this announcement was made, my office called Tom Chamberlain, he connected us to the right people, and I sent my jobs and economy advisor back to DC to meet with the AFL-CIO and make it clear that if labor is looking for a partner in job creation, they have one in Oregon. We’re working to make a project happen at OHSU and I’m hopeful that we can get this done and pursue even more.

This can be just the start.

I just returned from a trade mission to Asia, and I’ve seen our competition; but I’ve also seen our export markets and our opportunities. The global economy doesn’t have to be tilted against us. It is up to us to make it work for Oregon — and for Oregon workers.  

With our leadership in new clean energy technologies and green building; with the skilled union workers we have in Oregon in every field, from manufacturing to agriculture; and with the capital needs of our schools and public infrastructure, there are thousands of jobs to be created in Oregon. I will continue to do everything I can to recruit the business and capital investment that we need to create family-wage jobs and grow our economy for the long term.

In times of distress we can turn on each other, as we’ve seen in Wisconsin, or we can join together and chart a new future. You have my commitment to work with you as we re-build Oregon’s middle class together.


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