John Larson, left, Oregon Education Association president, and National Education Association President Lily Eskelsen García, center, hold a bannerwhich marching in support of increased school funding on May 8, 2019 in Salem. (Rachel Alexander/Salem Reporter)

SALEM — A third Oregon union says it will hold back on giving money to candidates who voted for reforms to Oregon’s costly public pension system earlier this year.

The announcement by the Oregon Education Association, the state’s largest teachers’ union, on Wednesday followed similar moves this fall by Oregon AFSCME and the Oregon AFL-CIO.

The teachers’ union said it will not give money to primary candidates who voted for the reforms. It is urging its local committees, which are responsible for endorsing candidates in local legislative races, to withhold their endorsements of those lawmakers who voted for the pension reforms.

READ: PERS reform passes after Speaker whips last minute votes

The union’s political action committee has not yet made a decision as to whether to endorse such candidates in the general election, according to the committee.

The unions’ reticence to fork over funds and endorse in the wake of the reforms may put dozens of Democrat incumbents, many of whom receive a high share of donations from unions, in a tricky spot.

Labor groups gave about $3.67 million to Oregon legislative candidates in the two years leading up to the 2018 election, according to the National Institute on Money in Politics, which tracks campaign donations. Overall, state house and senate candidates from both parties raised nearly $29 million in that election cycle.

Democrats will try to maintain their grip on the large majority of legislative seats they secured last year. That majority, in theory, allows them to pass tax increases without any Republican votes.

In a written statement, Rebecca Levison, the chair of the education association’s political action committee, said that Senate Bill 1049 cut “hard-earned benefits for tens of thousands of educators.”

“Lawmakers must answer for their votes,” said Levison, who teaches English as a second language in Portland. “Educators work hard for our benefits and still make 22% less than folks in the private sector with similar education. We won’t spend our hard-earned dollars to re-elect people in the primary who don’t understand that.”

There is no race for governor next year, but there will be an election for state treasurer as well as for the secretary of state.

Sen. Mark Hass, D-Beaverton, Rep. Jennifer Williamson, D-Portland, and 2018 Democratic candidate for Congress, Jamie McLeod Skinner, have announced they’ll run for the Democratic nomination for secretary of state, making that a competitive primary.

Both Hass and Williamson voted for the pension reforms, which were aimed at saving the state money on employee retirement benefits while it wrestles with billions in pension debt. 

Reporter Claire Withycombe: cwithycombe@eomediagroup.com or 971-304-4148.