The Unusual Push to Remove Rep. Paul Holvey
UFCW 555’S recall campaign against Rep. Paul Holvey is filled with confusion and controversy
Written for Eugene Weekly
Folks in the Eugene area have probably encountered petitioners asking for support for the recall campaign against Rep. Paul Holvey. The petition claims Holvey killed “legislation that would have provided vital assistance to workers who had been on the front lines of the COVID crisis, claiming that the implementation would be too complex,” and that “when it comes to standing up for workers, Paul Holvey always finds a reason not to.”
On June 20, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced that the United Food and Commercial Workers Union 555 branch, who filed the petition, had collected more than 6,600 signatures. In July, it was announced fewer than half of those signatures were valid.
And so the campaign continues, leaving political watchers puzzled as to why a union would want to recall Holvey and because no other union has said it supports the recall campaign. Holvey has been in office since 2004, previously was a business representative for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters and in the last election was re-elected by a wide margin.
In 2015 he was awarded the SEIU Champion for Working Families as well as the ALF-CIO Legislator of the Year, and in 2022 he was awarded the AFL-CIO Leadership Award.
Lobbyist Michael Selvaggio heads up UFCW 555’s recall campaign. He is also the union’s political director. Selvaggio founded a company called Osprey Field Services, dissolving it in early January 2020, according to the Oregon Secretary of State. Later that same month, a man named Joseph Emmons opened a business under that same name. Osprey is being paid by the recall campaign, which is largely funded by UFCW 555, according to the Secretary of State’s Orestar election finance tracker.
UFCW 555’s Communications Director Miles Eshaia says that Emmons asked Selvaggio if he could use Osprey Field Services’s name and logo, which Selvaggio agreed to without any remuneration. “He [Selvaggio] has no financial interest in any way, shape or form in Osprey Field Services,” Eshaia tells Eugene Weekly.
Generally, the recall system is used when a politician has done something egregious or broken the law, but the trigger for this campaign was when UFCW 555 introduced House Bill 3183, which the Oregon Legislature titled “relating to labor peace requirements as a condition for cannabis-related licensure.”
Holvey says that when the bill was introduced, he wanted to get a legal opinion on it because he had some questions about the state bill being preempted by federal law. The Legislative Counsel’s response to Holvey’s inquiries shows that the conflict arose because the National Labor Relations Board had “not issued any formal decision regarding whether the protections and prohibitions under the NLRA [National Labor Relations Act] apply generally to employers and employees in the cannabis industry.”
The deadlines for the House Committee on Business and Labor were coming, and so instead of letting the bill die, a motion was made to move the bill to the House Committee on Rules while waiting for a legal opinion.
The motion was approved 6-5, with Holvey voting in favor. If the motion had not been passed, HB 3183 would have died on April 4, but instead, it remained alive until June 25 when it died as the Legislature adjourned.
On May 19, the prospective recall petition claiming that Holvey had killed HB 3183 was created and signed by UFCW 555. However, the bill was very much alive in the Rules committee.
Because the bill was still technically alive when the recall petition was signed, Holvey alleges that Selvaggio was violating state law by using the recall petition as a way to influence his vote. According to Oregon Revised Statute 171.756(2), “A lobbyist may not attempt to influence the vote of any member of the Legislative Assembly by the promise of financial support of the candidacy of the member, or by threat of financing opposition to the candidacy of the member, at any future election.”
Selvaggio is also part of Oregon Capitol Club, a professional association for lobbyists, and its bylaws state that “No member shall attempt to influence the vote of any member of the Legislative Assembly by the promise of financial support of the candidacy of the member, by threat of financing opposition to the candidacy of the member, at any future election.”
Holvey sent a complaint to the president of the Capitol Club and the Oregon Government Ethics Commission.
Kathleen Stuart, founder and CEO of Stuart Collective, a woman-owned and women-run political campaign communications firm, is a part of Capitol Club. “The rules are really important. It gives people a place to come and say, ‘Is this correct?’ I think it creates a sense of structure that supports governance and democracy,” she tells EW.
Asked about these complaints, Selvaggio says that the UFCW assumed the bill was dead because during the May 11 Rules committee hearing, Rep. Julie Fahey said, “Given the LC [legislative counsel] opinion and given that our lawyers are saying that it’s likely preempted by federal law, I think it would be irresponsible for us to move this bill forward, so it’s not moving forward this session.”
Even with the LC opinion, Holvey voted to move the bill to Rules to keep it alive, instead of letting it die right then and there.
Selvaggio also says that he checked with the UFCW 555 team and believes that none of them had been in the Oregon State Capitol building since before the recall was filed. In regard to the allegation that the petition tried to sway Holvey’s vote on the bill, Selvaggio says, “Additionally, no effort, either directly or indirectly, was made by UFCW 555 or with the knowledge of UFCW 555 to continue lobbying Holvey once that declaration had been made.”
So far, UFCW 555 has spent more than $100,000 on the signature collection, according to Orestar.
“It seems odd that they would want to waste taxpayers’ money and waste their union members’ money to try to recall me and [make] me out to be some sort of anti-union figure,” Holvey says.
Using Orestar records, EW calculated that the petition committee RPH has paid Osprey Field Services $126,255.92. Selvaggio is the treasurer for RPH.
When EW reached back out to Selvaggio to confirm the amounts paid to Osprey, and if the union planned to spend more money on the campaign, he declined to comment and said to talk to UFCW’s Eshaia — though previously Selvaggio said that he was doing the communication for the union for the campaign.
Osprey’s current owner, Emmons, is being sued in Washington state over a labor dispute with the local UFCW branches. In December 2021, UFCW 21 and 1439 started to discuss merging the two branches. While preparing for a vote on the merger, UFCW 1439 members said that Emmons was circulating a flyer around Spokane grocery stores. The court order that dismissed Emmons’ motion to have the charges thrown out states that the flyer falsely accused “UFCW 21, UFCW 1439, and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 367 as well as its officers and staff were engaged in payoffs and coverups.”
The order states, “Mr. Emmons and Osprey Field Consulting benefited financially in distributing the flyers,” and that he never contacted any of the unions to determine if the statements in the flyer were true before distributing them.
Selvaggio and Emmons have worked together in the past. Before Osprey Field Services, Selvaggio was the president of Direct Action Partners, another petition-gathering firm. In 2018 there was a contract dispute in Colorado when Direct Action Partners stopped working on an initiative for Colorado Rising, an anti-fracking nonprofit, and Selvaggio left Colorado with 15,000 to 20,000 voter signatures, according to a lawsuit. Emmons was an employee of the business during that time, but it is unclear if he was involved in this dispute. Direct Action Partners dissolved after the dispute.
UFCW 555 submitted 6,600 signatures June 20, and 4,598 signatures were needed to trigger a recall. However, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office announced on July 19 that only 2,610 of the signatures were valid. Because the 90-day deadline from when the petition was formed is August 21, there is still time for UFCW 555 to collect more signatures.
Stuart, who has worked on and run many big field campaigns, says in a recall campaign like this, it can be hard to get verified signatures. She says that most likely, signature gatherers are collecting at places like bus stops and the Fairgrounds, where people who are there might not actually be represented by Holvey.
She also makes the point that “unless the premise of the recall is very plausible, highly disqualifying and well understood by the voters, recall elections are likely to fail.” Basically, if Holvey broke a law or did something obviously unethical, it’d be much easier to convince someone at a bus stop in under three minutes to sign a petition.
“Paul Holvey — he’s a veteran lawmaker. He’s been around a long time, people in Eugene know him. They love him. He took a lead role in passing minimum wage, passing paid sick leave, and supporting one of the strongest pay equity laws in the entire nation. He’s a champion,” Stuart says. “I think that voters know that. And I think that that makes gathering signatures real tough.”
In an email to EW, Holvey writes “I am so grateful that my constituents have been incredibly supportive of me, and so I’m not surprised at the failure to get enough signatures. It shows just how out of step this recall effort is with our community.”
Meanwhile, Osprey Field Services has union news of its own. On July 10, United Petitioners of Oregon announced their union in a press release and later posted on Facebook that they had unanimously signed union cards asking for voluntary recognition of the union from their employer, Osprey Field Services. “While our boss has missed the deadline to voluntarily recognize the union we aren’t going back into the dark again,” it says, adding, “Today the boss even tried to lie and say the union wasn’t real!”
Eugene Weekly has reached out to UPO for comment.