In Short

Grocery union turns in close to 4,000 signatures for Holvey recall

By: - August 21, 2023 4:51 pm

Rep. Paul Holvey, D-Eugene, listens during a committee meeting in December 2022. (Connor Radnovich/Oregon Capital Chronicle)

A union’s attempt to recall one of Oregon’s top legislative Democrats came down to the wire, with United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 turning in close to 4,000 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office before a 5 p.m. Monday deadline. 

About half of the 3,939 signatures submitted Monday need to be verified as valid signatures from voters in Rep. Paul Holvey’s district to force a recall election. 

The state’s largest private sector union launched its campaign against Holvey, a Eugene Democrat and House speaker pro tempore, in May and turned in more than 6,600 signatures to the Oregon Secretary of State’s Office by July. It only needed 4,598 signatures for a recall election.

But just one-third of the signatures volunteers and paid petition circulators collected were valid, leaving recall supporters scrambling to collect more signatures over the past month. Miles Eshaia, communications lead with the union, told the Capital Chronicle on Monday that the campaign was working until the deadline and expects to reach its goal. 

Because 2,610 signatures from the first batch were deemed valid, at least 1,988 of the new batch of signatures must be verified. 

The Secretary of State’s Office will start verifying signatures Tuesday, a spokesman said.

First, they’ll check to make sure that petition circulators properly completed forms, including signing and dating them. Then, the office can select a random sample of signatures and verify that the voter who signed lives in the district and that the signature matches signatures on file with the state.

The office has 30 days to verify that the campaign collected enough valid signatures from votes in Holvey’s district to begin a recall. 

Once-cozy relationships between UFCW Local 555 and Democratic leaders chilled during the COVID pandemic, as the union lobbied unsuccessfully to prioritize grocery workers for vaccines and use federal relief money for bonuses.

The final straw for union leaders with Holvey, a former carpenter and Pacific Northwest Carpenters union representative, came when he tabled a bill supported by the union that aimed to clear the way for cannabis workers to unionize. Legislative lawyers advised Holvey that the proposal conflicted with federal law, and, as chair of the  House Committee on Business and Labor, he declined to give it a vote before a statutory deadline. It moved to the House Rules Committee, where it languished until the Legislature adjourned in June. 

In a complaint to the Oregon Government Ethics Commission, Holvey alleged that UFCW lobbyist Michael Selvaggio violated state law by attempting to influence his vote through the recall petition. The complaint is still pending. 

So is a police investigation into an alleged assault on a recall staffer by a Holvey supporter. In an open letter last week, the campaign alleged that an “imposing white man” struck a young, trans person of color collecting signatures. The Eugene Police Department confirmed that it has a police report, photographs and 911 audio related to that incident, but declined to release any of those records in response to a request from the Capital Chronicle because they’re part of an open investigation. 


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Julia Shumway
Julia Shumway

Julia Shumway has reported on government and politics in Iowa and Nebraska, spent time at the Bend Bulletin and most recently was a legislative reporter for the Arizona Capitol Times in Phoenix. An award-winning journalist, Julia most recently reported on the tangled efforts to audit the presidential results in Arizona.