This oral history interview with Margaret Butler was conducted by Madeline Bisgyer at Butler's home from June 4 to August 17, 2018. The interview was conducted as part of the Oregon Labor Oral History Program, which collects oral histories of individuals who have advocated for working people of Oregon, including public figures, union members, and workers. The interview was conducted in eight sessions.
In the first interview session, conducted on June 4, 2018, Butler discusses her family background and early life in Portland, Oregon, including her mother as a role model, her relationship with her twin sister, Gillian, and her family's political views. She talks about her experiences at Lewis & Clark College, including life in the dorms and studying history. She speaks about how she got involved in labor organizing while working at a library, and talks about the people she worked with. She also describes studying abroad in Kenya and how her experiences there affected her political beliefs. She discusses her involvement in other organizations, including a tenants union, and talks about working for Pacific Northwest Bell after college. She looks at photographs and talks about them.
In the second interview session, conducted on June 11, 2018, Butler continues to discuss working as a telephone operator, including her job duties, people she worked with, and the break-up of the Pacific Bell telephone company. She discusses her involvement with the Communications Workers of America Local 7901, participating in a strike in 1983, and working with CWA National Organizing Director Larry Cohen. She speaks at length about her involvement with the CWA, including her election as vice president of the union in 1990. She also talks about her work to form the Portland coalition of Jobs with Justice, and about her relationship with Rich Peppers.
In the third interview session, conducted on June 26, 2018, Butler continues to discuss her involvement with the CWA and her service as vice president of the union. She speaks further about her work to form the Portland coalition of Jobs with Justice, and describes several union organizing campaigns she worked on through JwJ during the 1990s, including a living wage campaign and supporting striking United Food and Commercial Workers members. She talks about her marriage to Rich Peppers, and about balancing home life and their careers.
In the fourth interview session, conducted on July 5, 2018, Butler continues to discuss her work with Jobs with Justice and talks about her service as executive director. She looks at photographs of her union organizing activities and talks about them. She describes several actions of JwJ during the 1990s, including supporting striking Kaiser employees, lobbying for corporate tax reforms, and a living wage campaign. She talks about the work of the Portland Workers Rights Board, particularly the campaign to organize workers at Powell's Books. She reflects on JwJ's accomplishments during her time as executive director, and talks about conflicts with other organizations.
In the fifth interview session, conducted on July 10, 2018, Butler looks at and talks about photographs from several JwJ actions, including at Powell's Books, at the Parry Center, and at Providence hospital. She discusses the work of JwJ after the 2008 financial crisis, talks about photographs of those activities, and discusses JwJ's work on immigrant rights. She describes their fundraising Grinch parties, which are now called Scrooge parties, talks about conflicts between labor organizations, and shares her reasons for retiring in 2013. She talks about conflicts within JwJ after she left, and shares her thoughts about the future of the labor movement.
In the sixth interview session, conducted on July 19, 2018, Butler speaks further about her retirement from JwJ, and speaks at length about her work as a contractor with the American Association of University Professors. She talks about the history and mission of the AAUP, about the people she worked with, and about AAUP by-laws and policies. She also talks about organizing AAUP chapters, particularly at Portland State University. She speaks about becoming AAUP's executive director, and shares her reasons for leaving the AAUP.
In the seventh interview session, conducted on July 31, 2018, Butler discusses her retirement from the AAUP. She then talks about her activities since leaving the AAUP and about her plans for the future. She talks about her anti-racism work, reflects on her accomplishments during her career in labor organizing, and talks about the challenges she faced in her work. She also describes her idea of an "ideal" union, and talks about recent labor organizing efforts in Oregon.
In the eighth and final interview session, conducted on August 17, 2018, Rich Peppers, Jamie Partridge, and Lorene Scheer participated along with Butler. They each talk about their labor organizing backgrounds. They have a conversation about their work together as labor organizers with Jobs with Justice, describe several JwJ actions, and talk about lobbying the Oregon Legislature. They close the discussion by talking about JwJ's work related to civil rights, and about the future of the labor movement.