3/13/08

State labor commissioner gets promotion

Oregon's labor commissioner announced his resignation Wednesday to take a job with the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers union in Washington, D.C. Dan Gardner, 49, a Democrat, was an electrician when he was elected to the Oregon House from a Portland district in 1996. He was in the House three terms, including a stint as Democratic minority leader in 2000 and 2001, before he was elected commissioner of the Bureau of Labor and Industries in 2002.

He was unopposed for re-election in 2006. The position was made nonpartisan in 1995.

Gardner was the House Democratic leader during an infamous 2001 walkout, when minority Democrats stayed out of the House chamber for five days to deny majority Republicans the required number of members to conduct business in the House. The protest was over a Republican plan to redraw legislative districts; Democratic Gov. John Kitzhaber ended up vetoing the plan.

Gardner was one of the sponsors of a 2002 ballot initiative that voters approved to link future increases in Oregon's minimum wage to the consumer price index. Oregon is among the states with the highest minimum wage, which is praised by some and criticized by others.

The commissioner enforces civil-rights laws, wage and hour laws, and oversees apprenticeship programs. During the 2007 session, the Legislature expanded Oregon's unpaid family-leave law and allowed workers to tap sick pay but shelved a bill to create paid leave.

Gov. Ted Kulongoski is expected to name an interim commissioner today, said Anna Richter Taylor, his spokeswoman.

If that appointee wants to hold the job for the balance of Gardner's term, the filing deadline for the Nov. 4 election is Aug. 26. Others may file by that deadline as well.

Gardner is the eighth person to hold the position since it was created in 1903. It got its current name in 1979.

Gardner had considered a run for the open 5th District congressional seat. He lived a few blocks outside its boundaries, but the only federal requirement is for a representative to live in the state. He decided against it, saying he wanted to spend more time with his children.

(statesmanjournal.com)

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