The following is a statement from SEIU 503 Executive Director Melissa Unger and President Mike Powers:
Representative Mike Nearman’s comments on the Oregon House floor this week were consistent with his pattern of upholding, enabling, and emboldening white supremacy. House Bill 2761 passed with broad bipartisan support to direct the Oregon Secretary of State to publish on its website in the top five most commonly spoken languages in Oregon, other than English.
The “English-only” policy endorsed by Rep. Nearman on our House floor excludes tens of thousands of Oregonians from the democratic process, including essential workers and members of our union.
The Oregon Legislature needs to pass HB 2761 and other bills being considered this session to expand language access to our democracy. We also need to pass HB 3021, introduced by Chief Sponsor Rep. Khanh Pham, that would expand language access for voter pamphlets and election materials.
Rep. Nearman’s pattern of behavior is troubling. Earlier this year, he was caught on video intentionally opening a door for the rioters to enter the Oregon Capitol, putting the safety of his colleagues and Capitol staff at risk. Rep. Nearman was a key leader of an anti-immigrant hate group, Oregonians for Immigration Reform (OFIR) and a Senior Fellow at the Freedom Foundation, an anti-union organization that has unsuccessfully pushed an extremist political agenda in Oregon.
We are living through an era of emboldened extremism and increasing paramilitarism and, if left unchecked, it will lead to political violence for years to come. Safeguarding our democracy will take a concerted effort by elected leaders to reject organized bigotry and anti-democratic movements.
Defending democracy includes standing up to bad actors like Rep. Nearman. We redouble our call for Rep. Nearman to be removed from the Oregon House of Representatives, immediately.