A canvasser alleges they were assaulted August 10 while collecting signatures in the Whiteaker neighborhood for the Rep. Paul Holvey recall campaign being financed by United Food & Commercial Workers union Local 555.
The recall campaign has been controversial, as UFCW 555 — and no other unions — is seeking to get signatures to recall the popular labor politician. The recall campaign says that Holvey “killed” a bill that would have protected workers’ organizing rights. Holvey says, “UFCW continues to misrepresent, smear and lie because they are mad a bill of theirs did not pass.” And the allegation that he killed the bill “is not accurate,” he says. “Due to the lateness of receiving the bill language from proponents and committee deadlines, I acted to keep the bill alive by sending it to the Rules Committee for further discussion.”
The bill sought unionization for cannabis workers. Cannabis is legal in Oregon but not federally, and Holvey sought clarity on whether the protections and prohibitions under the National Labor Relations Act applied generally to employers and employees in the cannabis industry. UFCW 555 and its lobbyist, Mike Selvaggio, who is pushing for the recall, were supporters of the bill.
Some canvassers have garnered signatures by asking if voters want to “support grocery store workers” or by saying Holvey was anti-cannabis.
Niko Moran and Xochitl Lemus, who are both trans and genderqueer people of color, were collecting signatures on the street when Moran says a man who was with two women stopped and questioned them about the campaign. Later, after Moran and Lemus had moved on and were knocking at the East Blair Housing Cooperative, Moran says that the man came out of one of the doors, yelling belligerently at the two canvassers and coming up to Moran.
He “came at me shirtless, yelling at me, cornering me into the woman’s house that was in front of me, basically forcing me to have to step foot in her household in order to kind of back off,” Moran tells Eugene Weekly. Then, Moran alleges, while they attempted to assert personal boundaries, the man hit him/them.
The two filed a police report, and Eugene police say an investigation is underway.
Moran says that while the altercation was happening, multiple people in the co-op came out and watched, staying silent while Moran was being assaulted. Moran says the man was a Holvey supporter, and that the man kept yelling at people to not sign the recall petition and refusing to sign the petition himself.
“We’re just two brown trans people trying to make a living out here campaigning because this job pays really freaking well,” Moran says. “And we do very much believe in this campaign. He’s trying to stop that, and on top of that, put our lives in danger.”
A person who lives in the co-op who witnessed some of the situation, and asked to remain anonymous due to the tension of the situation, tells EW, Moran was “saying that they’re a trans person of color, basically implying that it was a hate crime, or that [he] was coming after them because of that. And I don’t think that was the case, [he] was upset that they were getting people to sign something to get someone recalled, but they were portraying it as something else.”
Afterward, Moran and Lemus called Joe Emmons, owner of Osprey Field Services, and filed a police report. Emmons gave the two a few days off paid leave to recover from the situation.
“Co-ops are supposed to be all community oriented. And then they actually had no idea how to be a community,” Moran says, continuing to emphasize that they were disappointed about how the bystanders did not step in to deescalate the situation.
Moran and Lemus posted a GoFundMe in late June asking for help raising money for martial arts lessons for self-defense and to help save up to move to Los Angeles. They write, “We are constantly positioned in sites of colonial violence; we are habitually hate-crimed, have nearly no financial familial support nor a community of friends, and fear for our safety when alone.”
Eugene Police Department spokesperson Melinda McLaughlin says that EPD has “taken a report and are investigating an incident that occurred when someone was politically canvassing. Because of where the detectives are in the investigation, we can’t release more right now.”
Emmons and UFCW, who took out a full-page ad in EW blaming Holvey for instigating the attack, declined to comment, as did Selvaggio.
Holvey says, “First and foremost, I hope the canvasser is OK, and is taking the time they need to recover. Prior to the letter sent out by UFCW, I had no knowledge of the alleged assault, and if it happened as described, I am appalled. As for the rest of the letter, I can say their claims regarding my legislative record and actions are categorically false.”
As of August 21, the Oregon Secretary of State’s office reports that 3,939 unverified signatures were turned in. To trigger a recall election, 4,598 valid signatures are needed. Because the recall group already collected 2,610 valid signatures, they will need 1,988 signatures to be valid.