Nicholas Kristof, a Democrat candidate for governor in Oregon, met with representatives from the state’s largest private-sector union in Downtown Bend on Sunday.
Four members of UFCW Local 555 sat down with Kristof at picnic tables at Mirror Pond Plaza, where he congratulated them on their successful strike in December.
“Thank you for your service during the best of times, but also during the worst of times, during the pandemic,” he told them.
Members were eager to discuss the role of unions, workman’s comp systems, and getting sufficient education for workers.
Kristof also asked them about issues that need to be addressed specifically in Central Oregon.
“We heard a lot about general issues like housing, and the importance that the economy and the state work for everyone from the top down, not just those one-percenters,” said the union’s political director Michael Selvaggio.
“One of the really important reasons I’m here is to listen to people,” Kristof told Central Oregon Daily News after the meeting. “I want to be a governor who communicates to others, but also who learns from people around the state, especially frontline workers who are struggling with affordable housing, who are concerned about homelessness, who have trouble making their ends meet.”
The visit comes after Oregon Secretary of State Shemia Fagan announced Thursday that Kristof does not meet the requirements to run for governor due to failing residency requirements.
Since then, the former New York Times columnist and two-time Pulitzer Prize winner filed a petition with the Oregon Supreme Court to request that the ruling be overturned.
“I want to underscore than my campaign is strong, we’re continuing, and it’s about listening and really solving a lot of Oregon’s problems that maybe historically we’ve been too quick to kick the can down the road with. I want to solve that,” Kristof added.
Selvaggio said the meeting on Sunday exemplified why UFCW 555 decided to endorse Kristof for governor.
“This is someone who sat down and had a conversation with our members and spent most of the time hearing what their concerns were,” he said. “This was not a candidate who was making some kind of grand oration, this was someone who said ‘here are workers, I want to know what’s important to them and what they’re looking for in a governor.'”
He said it was more important than ever for workers to feel seen and heard after “slipping through the cracks” over the past two years.