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Kitzhaber talks up unions, then tours non-union factory

EUGENE, Ore. – Oregon Governor John Kitzhaber assured a gathering of blue-collar union workers Wednesday that he is still on their side, despite anti-union sentiment in states like Ohio and Wisconsin.

The Democrat spoke at the annual convention of the AFL-CIO in Eugene. He told the crowd unions helped him get elected to an unprecedented third term. The labor coalition endorsed Kitzhaber in last year’s elections.

The governor pledged to work with unions to create so-called “family-wage jobs.”

"I've said it to you before, and I'll say it to you again," Kitzhaber said. "The labor movement built the American middle class in the last century, and a strong union movement is the key to growing the middle class in the 21st century."

Immediately after speaking to the union delegates, Kitzhaber toured a Eugene factory that manufactures equipment that processes municipal solid waste. The governor praised Bulk Handling Systems as a quote, "terrific success story."

The company has ramped up hiring in the past 18 months, and now employs about 200 people. None of them, according to company CEO Steve Miller, belongs to a union.

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Copyright 2011 Northwest News Network

Chris Lehman graduated from Temple University with a journalism degree in 1997. He landed his first job less than a month later, producing arts stories for Red River Public Radio in Shreveport, Louisiana. Three years later he headed north to DeKalb, Illinois, where he worked as a reporter and announcer for NPR–affiliate WNIJ–FM. In 2006 he headed west to become the Salem Correspondent for the Northwest News Network.