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Paul Holvey is a professional carpenter and an elected politician, and in his frame of reference, the two vocations not only successfully co-exist, but they fundamentally complement each other. Holvey, 58, is a four-term member of the Oregon House of Representatives and a two-decade veteran and current business representative of the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters.
In his elected position, the popular Democrat is co-chair of the General Government and Consumer Protection, and the Rules committees, he also serves on the work force development, and the sustainability and economic development committees. His work often directly impacts worker rights and leads to the protection or increase in the quality of life for those who work hard for a living.
“I draw from my skills developed in the UBC every day,” Holvey said. “Being trained to think strategically and negotiate on behalf of the Regional Council has helped to always seek the pathway to improvement in the standard of living for workers. I continue to do that in the legislature.”
Holvey’s passion for worker advocacy helped pave the way in 2009 when he sponsored legislation that created Oregon’s Interagency Compliance Network. The law opened privacy doors that allow state agencies to join together and pool resources in an effort to fight employee misclassification. He is now leading a legislative working group to study how best to improve public contracting methods.
“I’m one of those people who are able to get into specific details in a wide range of issues…a jack of all trades, just like a carpenter.”
A member of Local 156, Holvey’s love of carpentry grew from working with his father in homebuilding when he was young. With the UBC, Holvey did commercial carpentry, working his way up to foreman and superintendent before being selected for the Council’s representative staff.
“I got active with my local and formed relationships with the labor community by supporting union movements, demonstrations, and informational pickets, all trying to convince people that the unions were a good way of life.” His enthusiasm led him to be appointed to various boards and commissions in his local area. And when a vacancy surfaced with the Oregon legislature, he was approached by labor officials to fill the void.
“I saw politics as a way to help the union cause, so I gave it a shot and got elected,” he said.
When not in session, Holvey works on local area standards or other special projects for the Regional Council. “Paul does a great job in looking out for the best interst of our membership both as a council and state representative,” said PNWRCC Executive Secretary-Treasurer Doug Tweedy. “He’s an extremely hard worker who keeps his eye on the goal until it’s achieved.”
If Holvey could have one of his biggest goals realized, it would be to see every member of the UBC become more active in politics. “The voices of workers need to be heard. If we don’t cast our ballots or participate in the decision making process of our own communities, the workers’ voice can be overlooked,” he said.
Holvey added that not all UBC members need to gain an elected office to make a difference. “Even at your local school board level, wages and benefits are impacted. We need to make sure that the people making decisions understand the value quality contractors bring to the community as a whole. Not just individual workers, but everybody,” he said.
“It’s about making sure your voices are heard and your interests are protected.”
Holvey was up for re-election in 2012 and won. He said if sent to the Oregon House for another term, his skills learned as a carpenter and his determination to increase the quality of life for his UBC and constituent brothers and sisters will be right in step with him as he continues to fight for workers’ rights.