News briefs

UAW on strike at Williams Controls

Convinced their employer wasn't serious about bargaining a new union contract, 120 production and maintenance workers walked out at Williams Controls Sept. 9.

The Southwest Portland factory, taken over by New York-based American Investment Partners earlier this year, makes electronic throttles, exhaust brakes and pneumatic controls for trucks.

Workers are represented by Beaverton-based Local 492 of the United Auto Workers (UAW), which also represents 230 workers at local General Motors and Chrysler parts warehouses.

The strike is sanctioned by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, which placed the company on its Unfair List Sept. 9. Teamsters District Council 37 also has sanctioned the strike, so union truck drivers can refuse to cross.

Local 492 President Dennis Schmidling said the vote to strike was unanimous. Workers are maintaining a 24-hour-a-day picket line at the factory, located at 14100 SW 72nd Ave.

The union maintains that the walkout was called to protest "unfair labor practices," not economic demands. If the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB) agrees, it would be against the law for the company to permanently replace them, which it has threatened to do. A five-year contract expired Sept. 1.

According to Schmidling, the company wouldn't agree to meet until Aug. 6 and didn't present its economic proposal until Aug. 30. Details of the company's proposal included across the board pay cuts of $7 an hour (the workers currently average $15 an hour) with no economic justification offered; elimination of retiree medical coverage; eliminating overtime pay for weekend work and work after eight hours; eliminating seven paid holidays; limiting company payments for health insurance and changing insurance carriers; eliminating seniority rights and the grievance procedure; and eliminating the union's steward structure and bargaining committee, replacing them with one worker representative who would be appointed by management. Jim Frazier, a Portland anti-union consultant, is the company's representative at the bargaining table. Union leaders at other Portland-area unions finger Frazier for forcing past strikes at Voith Sulzer, Cummins Northwest and Atlas Copco Wagner.

No further bargaining sessions were scheduled as of press time.

UFCW Local 555's Jeff McDonald gets AFL-CIO board seat

TIGARD - Jeff McDonald, a business representative of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, has been appointed to the Executive Board of the Oregon AFL-CIO for District 1, Position 3. He succeeds Bob Williams, also of Local 555, who retired earlier this year.

District 1 encompasses Multnomah, Clackamas and Washington counties.

Machinists provide Labor Day dinner at Dignity Village

Members of District Lodge 24 provided a Labor Day dinner for the 60-plus homeless people living in Portland's Dignity Village.

Tom Ullmann, a Lodge 1005 member, delivered over 150 pounds of food in his pickup truck from leftovers at the union's Labor Day picnic at Oaks Park. The dinner included fried chicken, ham, barbecued ribs and beans, salads, fruits, vegetables, and rolls.

News of the feast didn't take long to travel through the village as people came from all directions with their plates and utensils. Everyone was very appreciative of the good food and thoughts from the lodge, Ullmann said.

Dignity Village is currently located at the Portland Department of Transportation's leaf recycling facility on NE Sunderland Avenue, not far from Portland International Airport.

"With the current state of the economy and the trucking and airline industries laying off many of our brothers and sisters, the people of Dignity Village are trying to establish a place between living on the streets and in the ever-dwindling number of affordable housing units," Ullmann said.

Jack Tafari, chair of the village's council, says it costs Dignity about 17 cents per night per person to house themselves as compared to the $35 it costs taxpayers to house someone in a mission overnight. "And Dignity Village costs taxpayers absolutely nothing," Tafari said.

SEIU Local 49 gets another shot at Corvallis Hospital

CORVALLIS - Management at Good Samaritan Regional Medical Center here learned this month that there are sometimes consequences for trampling U.S. labor laws.

Workers voted 164 to 82 Sept. 6 to join Service Employees Local 49. Nearly five months earlier, the union had lost a vote among the same workers by 122 to 139, but the margin was so narrow, and the employer abuses so significant, that the National Labor Relations Board ordered a re-run election.

The hospital had hired extra security guards in the weeks prior to last April's election who conducted surveillance of workers and stopped workers from distributing union materials in front of the hospital during shift changes; managers threatened workers with termination if they voted union and interrogated workers about their support of the union. Anti-union employees were allowed to take time off work to campaign against the union, but pro-union employees were denied similar requests. Workers were told they couldn't discuss the union during work time.

All of these acts violated the law, and since the NLRB felt the violations had affected the outcome of the election, the agency ordered a new one.

In fact, the behavior continued; the union charged in August that were supervisors following around known union supporters and standing in their presence in an intimidating manner whenever they tried to talk about the union with their co-workers. Still, with support from unionized nurses, housekeepers, and engineers, pro-union workers rallied a majority at the hospital to vote yes.

Now the challenge will be to win a first contract for the 250-person unit, which includes certified nursing assistants, radiology tech aides, phlebotomists, clerical support staff, groundskeepers, and numerous other "non-professional" classifications.

Home care workers win in Washington

OLYMPIA - Culminating a multi-year effort to gain a unified voice, some 26,000 home care workers in Washington State won the largest union election in state history. The in-home caregivers voted by an 84 percent margin for Service Employees Local 6 in a mail-in ballot that was tallied Aug. 16.

Last November the workers successfully led an effort to pass a statewide ballot initiative to create a Home Care Quality Authority and allow the workers, who are paid with state funds, to form a union and negotiate a contract with the authority. Right now workers are paid $7.68 an hour but receive no benefits, holidays, sick leave or other benefits.

With the election, home care workers follow their colleagues in Oregon and California who have unionized in search of better wages, benefits and respect. Health care workers in California have won a "living wage" of $9 to $11 per hour, while workers in Oregon - members of the Oregon Public Employees Union Local 503 - are still negotiating a first contract.

UFCW targets Winco grocery stores

United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 is conducting informational picketing at Winco stores in Oregon and Washington.

The action comes following the announcement of a lawsuit filed against the company by a former employee and Sudanese refugee charging that the grocer illegally controls and dominates its "worker association" to the detriment of its workers.

Lino Paul was allegedly fired by Winco for a minor infraction on the job as a cashier. He sought representation by the Winco Store Employee Association, a union created by Winco, but the union failed to adequately defend his rights.

According to Paul's complaint, Winco created a sham company-run "worker association" that represented the company's interest more than the workers'. Winco even goes so far as to illegally indemnify the captive employee "association" for its failures to represent the workers.

"Everywhere I turned for help from my union, they wouldn't help me. In three years at Winco, I was a good employee. I needed my job to save money so that I can get my wife and children out of the refugee camp in Africa and bring them to live with me in the United States," said Paul.

Winco employs more than 5,000 workers in Washington, Oregon, Idaho, California and Nevada.

Local 555's informational pickets will be in front of Winco stores n Clackamas, Tigard, West Linn, Sherwood, Newberg, Corvallis and Medford in Oregon, and in Vancouver and Woodland in Washington, from 4 to 6 p.m. on weekdays and 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. on weekends.

September 20, 2002 issue

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