I was ill on the last day of the Summit, so I helped Bob Marshall with his set-up in the lobby of the Capital building in Salem, handing out papers, and answering passerby’s questions. Meanwhile, everyone else broke off into groups to go meet with state representatives and share their stories—the struggles of modern American life. Before we left to go home I met Lisa Dupell, Staff Director for Local 555, who agreed to an interview about her Lobby Day experience.
Lisa started off as a union member in 1988 while working for Waremart, the now named WinCo, and ended up in The Local in ’95. “I’ve never participated in a Lobby Day until last year.” she admits, addressing that the Union has come along way from what it used to be, even from ’88—this seems to be the sentiment shared by most of the staff—new leadership has brought the Union to a place where it can host a Lobby Day. Lisa was part of the backup team that made sure representatives kept all the appointments made. They also stepped in as extra team-leaders so workers could speak at any point available.
They did so well that all 70 appointments were made, that’s a lot of law makers we can now hold accountable for a better working life in Oregon. I asked her why she thought Lobby Day was important, and her answer cut to a deeper issue in politics: “These people are disconnected from workers, so they don’t understand how law impacts people on that level.” she said. Mrs. Dupell is talking about the current Oregon laws on sales to minors of alcohol and tobacco: First-time penalty to employees (checkout clerks) of off-premises sales licensees for inadvertent or unknowing alcohol sales in either traditional or “self-checkouts” may be charged as a Class A Misdemeanor; typically the employee is fired immediately. Politicians don’t seem to understand how difficult a position this puts grocery clerks in. It’s worse than just losing your job, it’s twice as hard to get just the same job back with a new criminal record.
However, that’s not entirely the state’s fault. Lisa also talked about a, “general silence from the voting populous”, which she argues is dangerous because it, “Gives no sense of direction for politicians.” I see her point everyday on the news when someone forgets they’re a public servant. Lisa’s strategy made sure worker voices went directly to their representatives, not person who lives on the other side of Oregon, but an official who’s directly responsible. The game-plan was great, but something was missing.
I asked if there was anything that she would have changed, and she only commented on the turn-out stating, “The more people that give their stories…the more politicians start to understand.” Many people showed up for the Summit, but not near as many as could have been accommodated, and not not even close to what’s ideal. The more of you who get involved in policy making, the more you talk to your representative, the more difference you can make in everyone’s lives.
President Dan Clay was right, this event is a catalyst for a better life of Oregon workers. Him, Bob, Steve, Lisa and so many countless others give more than words can write, so we can all live well, and set the bar for the American work force. The more people that get involved, the more we can achieve. I hope to see you at next years summit.