Q&A with new state labor chief

| Print |  Email
Thursday, May 01, 2008

BradAvakian.jpg

Will work for balance

When Gov. Ted Kulongoski tapped Brad Avakian to be the state’s labor commissioner, the former Democratic senator and one-time civil rights lawyer says he had one thought: I’ll finally get to tackle the workforce issues I didn’t have time for while I was in office.

Avakian is stepping into a contentious position: The business community often saw outgoing commissioner Dan Gardner — who resigned to become a lobbyist for the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers in Washington, D.C. — as overly supportive of labor unions. Avakian says he’ll be able to find a balance between the two sides. He doesn’t have long. He’ll need a lot of support if he’s going to win in November when voters decide who to elect as labor commissioner.

Just as long as his kids don’t get wise to his job before they turn 18.

What was your first job?
Pumping gas at a Flying A in Beaverton. Actually my first job was picking berries and hazelnuts. But my first wage-paying job was at the gas station. I was 15 years old.

Has your idea of what’s important to labor changed as you’ve gotten older?
I suppose it’s developed. I believe there’s a great balance in life. I’m a very big supporter of organized labor. Unions have a place in that balance. But to fully understand that, you need viable industry so you can have jobs. That sense of balance has developed over time.

Did working as the chair of the Psychologist Examiners board from 1995-1997 prepare you for working with the Legislature?
(Laughs) It certainly gave me tools to work through the budget with the Ways and Means committee. But I’m completely unqualified to diagnose members of the Legislature.

Over the past 40 years in Oregon politics, who did the best job of addressing labor issues?
I think Wayne Morse struck the kind of balance I was talking about. He understood the rights of the workers and the necessity of having strong business. He would have to make one of the all-star lists.

When the Governor’s office announced your name, the fact that your former law firm represented unions was brought up in the media:
Listen, I was very humbled by it, but I was named [Legislative] consensus builder of the year [by the Oregon League of Conservation Voters in 2007] for one reason: I have very deep relationships within the Democratic and Republican ranks, and I have very good relationships with the labor and business communities. It enabled me to pass some very specific legislation. I’m guessing any comments are coming from corners that haven’t spent time with me.

You have two teenage children. How does the labor commissioner get his kids to do housework?
I’ve got to figure out how to get my own housework done first.

Is it a union household?
If my kids understood collective bargaining they’d organize right now. And because of my background as a civil rights lawyer I’d have to support their efforts.                                                                        

ABRAHAM HYATT


Have an opinion? E-mail This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it

 

More Articles

Election Season

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

We didn’t intend this issue to have an election season theme. But politics has a way of seeping into the cracks and fissures.


Read more...

The clean fuels opportunity

News
Monday, November 10, 2014
111014-dirtyfuel-thumbBY KIM MOORE | OB RESEARCH EDITOR

A market for low-carbon transportation fuels has a chance to flourish in Oregon if regulators adopt the second phase of the state’s Clean Fuels Program.


Read more...

The short list: 4 companies engaged in a battle of the paddles

The Latest
Thursday, December 04, 2014
pingpongthumbBY JACOB PALMER | OB DIGITAL NEWS EDITOR

Nothing says startup culture like a ping pong table in the office, lounge or lobby.


Read more...

The Bookseller

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY AMY MILSHTEIN

Everyone knows college is expensive, but a look at the numbers brings that into sharp — and painful — focus.


Read more...

Reimagining education to solve Oregon's student debt and underemployment problems

News
Thursday, November 13, 2014
carsonstudentdept-thumbBY RYAN CARSON | OP-ED CONTRIBUTOR

How do we skill up our future technology workforce in a smart way to take advantage of these high-paying jobs? The answer shouldn’t focus only on helping people get a bachelor’s degree.


Read more...

Political Clout

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014
BY KIM MOORE

Businesses spend billions of dollars each year trying to influence political decision makers by piling money into campaigns.


Read more...

What I'm Reading

November/December 2014
Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Peter Lizotte at ACME Business Solutions and Roger Busse at Pacific Continental Bank share their favorite reads.


Read more...
Oregon Business magazinetitle-sponsored-links-02
SPONSORED LINKS