News briefs

CF closes, lays offs thousands of union workers in U.S.

VANCOUVER, Wash. - Consolidated Freightways (CF) announced on Labor Day that it was filing for bankruptcy, shutting its operations and laying off 15,500 workers nationwide. About 400 workers at its corporate office here are members of Office and Professional Employees Local 11 and another 300 drivers and mechanics are members of various Teamsters locals in Oregon. The bulk of the Oregon drivers are members of Local 81, and mechanics are members of Local 305.

Consolidated Freightways has about 1,000 employees in Washington State.

Teamster officials in Oregon said that a majority of the the 15,500 employees nationwide are Teamsters.

Teamster President Jim Hoffa said the union will exercise all of its legal options to recover any wages, vacation pay, benefits and other monetary claims due to workers.

He said the union also will investigate to "determine the appropriateness of litigation regarding whether CF's demise was part of an intentional corporate scheme."

CF was founded in Portland in 1929. It has been struggling financially for more than two years. A month ago the company asked the Teamsters to open their contract to vote on taking a 12 percent pay cut. The union was preparing to do just that, but the offer was taken off the table before they had a chance to vote.

The company filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court Sept. 3.

Employees learned of the closure via a recorded telephone message from chief executive officer John Brincko. In the recording, he told employees not to report to work. He said the company would ask the bankruptcy court to pay them for their last two weeks of work.

Building trades to rally for a union- built G-P plant

WESTPORT - The Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council will hold a rally here at noon Saturday, Sept. 14, to show Georgia-Pacific that union workers are ready and able to go to work building a new tissue-making plant.

G-P announced last month the company would invest $200 million in a new paper machine employing more than 100 new workers at the mill in Wauna, located about 25 miles southwest of Astoria.

The current tissue mill there employs about 850 workers, who are members of the Paper, Allied-Industrial, Chemical and Energy International Union (PACE) Local 8-1097.

A.D. (Pete) Correll, chairman and chief executive officer of Georgia-Pacific, said his company would invest $200 million in a new paper machine employing about 110 new workers at the G-P mill in the Clatsop County town of Wauna.

When the expansion is finished in 2004, it will generate about 110 full-time jobs paying about $60,000 a year making Brawny paper towels. Construction starting later this month will require about 200 construction workers, said Correll during a press conference with Governor John Kitzhaber last month announcing the expansion. Included at that press conference was Bob Shiprack, executive secretary of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council.

Shiprack said G-P plans to manage the construction project in-house with representatives coming from its headquarters in Atlanta. The plan, he believes, is to use local subcontractors.

Wauna is one of 50 enterprise zones in Oregon, which means G-P's expansion will be exempt from all property taxes for three years, with a two-year extension at the discretion of local public officials.

The rally will be held at Local 8-1097's hall at 91237 Old Mill Town Road in Westport. The fastest way from Portland is to go I-5 North to the Longview exit. Follow signs to Oregon, crossing the Columbia River and going west on Highway 30. Westport is approximately 9 miles west of Clatskanie. Just past the 40 mph sign on the right is Old Mill Town, turn right and go approximately 3 blocks (no cross streets); the Hall is on the right. Or, take Highway 30 from Portland all the way.

NOLC joins in urging justice for Farm Workers

The Northwest Oregon Labor Council passed a resolution Aug. 16 supporting California Farm Workers and a bill in the California Legislature that would allow them to go to binding arbitration in the event of a labor dispute.

Last month thousands of farm workers and union supporters walked 150 miles over 10 days from Delano, Calif., to the steps of the Capitol in Sacramento, as part of a United Farm Workers Union campaign urging Democratic Governor Gray Davis to sign Senate Bill 1736, a union-backed bill granting farm field laborers mediation and arbitration to win their first union contracts with growers.

Along the march, hundreds of persons, including actor Ed Begley Jr., formed a "human billboard" holding signs in support of the bill along a busy Los Angeles intersection during rush hour Aug. 23. Begley was one of more than 40 prominent entertainment figures who signed full-page ads in the Daily Variety and The Hollywood Reporter urging Davis to sign the bill.

If it becomes law, the bill would allow a state panel to step in and settle contract disputes that have reached a stalemate. United Farm Workers of America President Arturo Rodriguez said the provision is needed to finish the work started more than 35 years ago by the late Cesar Chavez.

NOLC will send a letter supporting the farm workers to Davis and to the Farm Workers Union.

Willamette corridor Local 555 members okay grocery strike

EUGENE - Despite a massive employer "Vote No" campaign, grocery clerks and meatcutters at Safeway, Albertson's and Fred Meyer stores throughout the Willamette Valley corridor voted Aug. 28 to give strike authorization to their union - United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555.

Meatcutters and grocery clerks work under separate contracts, and each area contract is serviced separately. The Eugene Area Working Agreement covers about 1,100 employees in Eugene and Springfield and the Salem Area Working Agreement represents 1,500 workers in Salem, Albany, Corvallis, Lebanon and Sweet Home. The Eugene contract expired Feb. 16 and the Salem pact ended Aug. 3.

Grocers at all locations are represented at the bargaining table by NW Food Employers Inc.

John Etten, director of collective bargaining for Local 555, said a record number of members voted, and strike authorization was strong - ranging from 95 percent for Eugene meatcutters to 80 percent for Salem grocery clerks. A strike authorization requires a two-thirds majority vote.

A key sticking point in negotiations is the employers' demand for a two-tier system, complete with separate seniority lists. Health insurance is also a hot topic, Etten said.

Negotiations are scheduled to resume Tuesday, Sept. 17, in Eugene. Employers refuse to meet in Salem.

Meantime, 2,000 non-food employees at Portland Fred Meyer stores ratified a new three-year contract Aug. 29 that will give them a 90 cent wage increase over the term of the agreement and full maintenance of benefits for the first year, with the second and third years tied to Portland area grocery negotiations, which open next summer.

Local 290 wins bargaining unit at Longview Inspection

Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 has organized Longview Inspection at Milwaukie and in Everett, Wash.

The National Labor Relations Board election was held Aug. 23. Employees of the international company based in Texas voted 15-8 for the union. There are 28 people in the bargaining unit.

Employees perform non-destructive testing of materials and components such as boilers and papermills, said Local 290 organizer Michael Callahan.

Callahan said wages and working conditions at the Portland facility led to a discussion that blossomed into a five-month organizing campaign. "Management hired a consultant to spread the anti-union message," Callahan said. Longview Inspection operates primarily non-union in the United States, but is unionized under a United Association/Boilermaker agreement in Canada.

Callahan said Local 290 will seek advice from its counterparts in Canada when negotiations begin.

September 6, 2002 issue

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