Teachers union gets down in the mud

The sleaze factor in this election has been among the most offensive we can remember. But a mailer to teachers from their union last week sets a new low.

Under a picture of Bill Sizemore — the initiative-pushing opportunist the Oregon Education Association loves to hate — are the words, "Vote No on Bill Sizemore's Measures. No on 58, 59, 60, 61, 63, 64, 65."

The problem is, three of those measures aren't Sizemore's, which the union knows very well. Measures 58 and 59 are sponsored by Kevin Mannix. Measure 65, which would create an open primary system in Oregon, is backed by former secretaries of state Phil Keisling and Norma Paulus, not to mention former governors Vic Atiyeh and John Kitzhaber.

Needless to say, Keisling and Paulus are steamed. Keisling says he's become accustomed to underhanded tactics in elections, but can't recall accusing anyone of an outright lie. In this case, that's exactly what he's doing.

The OEA's opposition to open primaries is understandable. If Measure 65 passes, major party candidates will have to work harder to make it to the general election ballot, and the alliance between the Democratic Party and the OEA has been long and beneficial to both.

That's fine, but to stoop to disseminating an out-and-out lie to its own members is reprehensible.

OEA spokeswoman Becca Uherbelau — who hails from the Rogue Valley — didn't apologize for the mailer in a response posted on the Willamette Week Web site.

"There was absolutely no intent to link Measure 65 to Bill Sizemore. OEA members are smarter than that," she said. "The piece clearly highlights which measures are sponsored by Sizemore. It appears that proponents of Measure 65 have chosen to overreact to this particular mailing for the purpose of publicity."

Overreact? We don't think so.

OEA members are certainly intelligent enough to see through this bald-faced lie. The question is, are OEA members outraged by their union's behavior, and will they call them on it?

Unions exist to represent the interests of their members, and union officials ought to answer to those workers when they step over outside the bounds of decent behavior.

OEA members should tell their union they are offended by the mailer, and the OEA should apologize for it.

There is one consequence the OEA probably didn't consider when it produced the mailer. Another comment posted on Willamette Week's Web site suggested people angry with the union should vote for Measure 64.

Measure 64 would make it illegal for public entities such as school districts to withhold union contributions from employees if those contributions are used for political purposes.

Oh — and Measure 64 does happen to be sponsored by Bill Sizemore.

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