Len Phillips settles in at Sheet Metal Workers 16

Paperwork is scattered over every inch of the desk. A laptop computer screen flashes, awaiting its next command. Behind it all sits Len Phillips, the new business manager and financial secretary of Portland-based Sheet Metal Workers Local 16.

“It keeps me hopping,” said Phillips, 54, who was elected to the post five months ago. “But it’s a job that has to be done ... and I’m willing to do it.”

Phillips succeeds Bob Ronspiess, who resigned last April. Joining him for three-year terms are newly-elected President Dennis Boyd and a new Vice President Rodney McCambridge.

Phillips has been a member of Local 16 for nearly 32 years (his father is retired with 30 years’ membership). For two-and-a-half of those years — from 1993 to mid-1995 — Phillips worked as a business agent in Salem, servicing Southern Oregon. He also has served as president of the local, as a pension trustee, and on the apprenticeship and training committee. Phillips is a graduate of the Sheet Metal Workers apprenticeship and training program.

In 1995, Phillips returned to the field as a construction manager for Southland Industries. That’s what he was doing last April when Ronspiess resigned.

After much consideration, Phillips decided to “step up and run for the job.” His motive, he said, was to try to give back to the local what it had given him for so many years.

“I want to provide leadership and some new direction to the local,” he told the Northwest Labor Press. “My goal is to leave it in better shape than when I came in.”

Phillips said his past involvement in union affairs, his work as a business agent, and his training as a project manager will be a plus for him as he tackles his new job as business manager and financial secretary.

“The part I enjoy most is that I feel like I can help make a difference in our members’ lives,” he said.

The union represents 2,360 Sheet Metal Workers in both construction and industrial production settings — at large shops and small.

Phillips said work is slow everywhere. “Some of our guys are starting to get called back, but not enough to make us feel comfortable or the members feel good,” he said.

Next to getting members back to work, Phillips said organizing is his highest priority.

He came into office on the heels of a bitter organizing campaign at Boydstun Metal Works. That effort led to numerous challenges filed by both sides with the National Labor Relations Board that resulted in re-running the union election three times. The union eventually lost the election, but more charges have been filed against the company.

Also on the docket is negotiations for a first contract at Evans Manufacturing and Forming Inc.

“There’s always a contract open somewhere,” Phillips said.

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