Skip to content

Oregonian Editorial Board: Bob Caldwell

I knew what I was going to say before we passed through security and up to the fifth floor at the Oregonian office on our way to Bob Caldwell’s office, the head of the Oregonian editorial board..  

Some history to this point.  The union won the election, by a slim margin, and we were negotiating the contract.  It was slow going, the management team was in no hurry to reach an agreement.  On an early Spring Friday afternoon the union employees set up an Unfair Labor Practice picket at the internet store.  The longshoremen from Local 8 were joining the picket.  The internet shipping office was across the street from the main Burnside store in a separate building.  In early afternoon over forty employees and longshoremen were surrounding the entrance to the building.  The goal was to stop the mail that afternoon.  The Teamster union representing the UPS drivers had been contacted and their assistance was requested.  On a Friday afternoon Powells at that time was shipping a couple of hundred parcels, some special next day delivery parcels.  Employees circulating at the entrance to the shipping room had picket signs, declaring Powells guilty of an unfair labor practice.  The picket was successful, neither UPS or the US Postal service picked up packages that afternoon.

The reason we were going to the Oregonian that afternoon was the editorial that had been in the Sunday Oregonian a couple of days after the picket.  The union was “Brandishing Sticks” outside of Powell’s Books according to the editorial.  ‘Brandishing Sticks”, was the red flag.  The sticks had signs on them of course, as you would see at any picket line or labor action.  There was little doubt where the Oregonian stood on this labor issue having broken their unions in the 60’s.  But why spin the action so inaccurately?

There were a half dozen employees and the president of the ILWU with me that afternoon.  Extra chairs were brought into the room to accommodate everyone.  After introductions I don’t remember the chat. Then, I said it, “When you publish this kind of editorial, not based upon fact, you have alienated your future customers, look around you, educated literate young people,  you have alienated these folks, future subscribers.  Why would you want to do that?”

The editor, in defense, said that the editorial did not have to be based upon fact.

Post-note:  About twelve years later on March 10, 2012 Bob Caldwell, then sixty-three had a cardiac arrest after a sex act with a twenty-three year old prostitute in her apartment.  He had served at the head of the Oregonian editorial board since 1995.