Is this the new order of protests in Portland? On Sunday afternoon, led by a cadre from the Carpenter 247 Union, the annual May Day parade moved lethargically down Broadway. There were cowbells and drums. Participants complained about the massive corporations that have steamrolled across the country, offering low-paying jobs in their wake. Activists demanded health care for all workers. All told, about 600 marchers crowded into downtown.

But, unlike in years past, there was no violence. Cops on bicycles smiled as they rode alongside the slow-moving parade. Unlike May Day in 2000 and 2001, which turned into scuffles between activists and cops on horseback, this year police and protesters alike behaved themselves.

Some claimed that the tamer police force is due to rounds of lawsuits. Others pointed to the new leadership in Police Chief Derrick Foxworth and Mayor Tom Potter. Only one person said that the change was because labor unions have taken back control of the annual march, edging out the anarchists who hosted the event in years past. PB MINIMIZING WAGES

Currently, the minimum wage in Oregon is above the national average. But if the Oregon Business Association gets its way, that could soon change. Last Wednesday, a legislative committee in Salem began hearings on HB 2720--an OBA-sponsored bill that would ratchet down Oregon's minimum wage.

If passed, the new law would cap minimum wage to a four percent raise each year. Currently, Oregon is one of only three states wherein minimum wage rises with inflation--an assurance brought about three years ago by Measure 25.

But some lawmakers and the OBA claim that Oregon's $7.25 hourly wage versus the federal minimum of $5.15 turns businesses away from Oregon.

"There's absolutely no truth to that," counters Patty Wentz, the spokesperson for the AFL-CIO's Oregon branch. "Look at the fact that Oregon's growth is coming from low and minimum wage jobs."

Currently, the bill is pending in committee hearings--but if pushed forward, it could easily be approved by the Republican-controlled House. For more information, go to the Oregon AFL-CIO website at ANDREA CHALUPA