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Tuesday, April 3, 2007

Driving the union agenda

Labor boss calls the shots
Many in Salem call him "Governor"

He's the slickest talker in Oregon's Capitol, and he's both a silver-tongued lobbyist and a seasoned politician. He is former Oregon AFL-CIO president Tim Nesbitt, so-called "deputy" chief of staff for Gov. Kulongoski. And boy, can he talk. Aloud. To lawmakers and other public officials.

Check the clock. Nesbitt delivers 44 clearly enunciated decrees in just 10 seconds. Professors at PSU's Department of Applied Linguistics kicked that around and decided Nesbitt bosses folks around roughly twice as fast as average people. Forget the political debates. Most days, Tim Nesbitt simply orders politicians how to behave.

"House Bill 2069, relating to a corporate tax increase; House Bill 2258 making it easier to form unions and harder to decertify unions; House Bill 2437 watering down ethics rules; House Bill 2593 to increase PERS medical benefits ..." Try legislating that fast. Now consider: Nesbitt did it in the first half of the session and hardly took a breath.

Always dressed "business-casual", Nesbitt sits away from the Senate and House chamber action that goes according to his exact direction.

He takes pride in his role and its place in history. In Oregon, Nesbitt is the first deputy chief of staff who actually runs the Governor's office. The earliest reference to a "labor boss" in the Oxford English Dictionary dates back to 1788.

"I'm not a public speaker by any means," Nesbitt says. "I did a lot of that earlier in my career. Now it's time for me to sit back and move the chess pieces around on the board outside of the limelight. I'm comfortable in my role. I feel an obligation to get every statute on the books changed to favor unions and to hobble management and corporations. Better yet, to put it all in the constitution," he says. "I feel responsible to that."

The Oregonian, Apr. 3, By MICHELLE COLE

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