ILWU ratifies new six-year contract
Members of the International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU), by a margin of nearly 90 percent, ratified a new six-year contract with the Pacific Maritime Association (PMA) that maintains health benefits and increases pensions, the union announced Jan. 22.
The final tally was 7,405 in favor of the contract and 888 against. Voter turnout was 85 percent. The agreement passed in every local on the West Coast. The 89.3 percent vote is the largest approval for any longshore contract in the history of the ILWU.
The agreement was reached Nov. 23 following a 10-day employer lockout in September and President George W. Bush's unprecedented use of the Taft-Hartley Act to reopen the ports.
The contract guarantees 100 percent employer-paid medical benefits and pension increases of nearly 60 percent. It also gives jurisdiction over new port computer technology - the issue that ignited the employer lockout - to the union.
"The contract says that the new work operating the new technology will not be outsourced to non-union workers," said ILWU International President James Spinosa. "That work will be done by ILWU marine clerks."
Still, the union expects Pacific Maritime Association member companies to challenge that and to seek regular arbitrations to minimize clerk work as much as possible. PMA has been forcing clerk jurisdiction issues to arbitration ever since computers were first introduced to the docks more than 20 years ago and a number of PMA companies opposed the current jurisdiction deal. The new arbitration process on technology will likely be tested early and often. Even Peter Hurtgen, the federal mediator who helped work out the contract language, said its intent is to give the jobs to union members.
"In a time when more working families than ever are struggling with rising health care costs and insecure retirements, the ILWU has won a historic contract which sets a much-needed benchmark in health care, pensions and living standards," said AFL-CIO Secretary-Treasurer Richard Trumka, who assisted in the bargaining.
The contract covering 10,500 members at 29 West Coast ports, including Portland, Vancouver, Coos Bay, Astoria and Seattle, took effect Feb. 1.
Workers protest Kulongoski plan to cut health benefits
SALEM - Members of Service Employees Local 503, Oregon Public Employees Union, protested Jan. 30 against Governor Ted Kulongoski's proposal to cut health benefits for public workers.
Union workers let their concerns be heard prior to a hearing of the Public Employee Benefit Board (PEBB).
PEBB administers health care benefits for state employees. The amount the state pays is subject to collective bargaining, but the board must decide now, before negotiations are complete, how to react to the governor's proposed budget, which doesn't include funds for anticipated 12 to 15 percent annual increases in health insurance costs.
"The governor's budget presents PEBB with difficult options," said Paul McKenna, a Local 503 representative on the board. "PEBB can either reduce the quality of the health insurance state workers receive, or we can maintain the current benefit structure without assurance of state funding for the increased costs. It would certainly be preferable if the governor and Legislature revised the budget so that neither of these undesirable outcomes takes place."
Kathie Best, president of Local 503, said all the talk of the Public Employee Retirement System has obscured the health care crisis. "We think the health care crisis is larger than PERS," Best said. "Governor Kulongoski campaigned on the need for quality, affordable health insurance for all Oregonians. Our members expect him to fulfill that pledge."
UFCW Local 555 joins Lebanon group fighting Wal-Mart
LEBANON - Area residents and United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 have teamed up to try to stop a low-paying, good-job-destroying Wal-Mart from invading the city.
The two groups are gathering names for an initiative petition that would block annexation of land needed for the proposed 188,000-square-foot "big box" store. A drive-in theater now occupies the land. The petition seeks a city charter amendment to require voter approval of all future annexations.
The group needs signatures from 15 percent of registered voters to put the referendum on the May ballot.
Labor endorses Marc Abrams for school post
Marc Abrams, a deputy state attorney general and member of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, has been endorsed for re-election to the Portland Public School Board, Zone 3, by the Northwest Oregon Labor Council.
He is being challenged in the May 20 election by community college student James R. West, who also sought labor's endorsement.
Four board seats are up in May and the labor council is actively recruiting "labor-friendly" candidates to run for the posts. Last summer the school board voted to contract out janitorial work at the school district, firing 330 custodians - all members of Service Employees Local 140.
Abrams was one of two board members opposing the plan. The other was Derry Jackson. He is not up for election.
Sue Hagmeier is seeking re-election in Zone 2, but two others - Chairwoman Karla Wenzel in Zone 1 and member Debbie Goldberg Menashe in Zone 7 say they won't run for re-election.
The filing deadline is March 20.
Anyone interested in the school posts can call NOLC at 503-235-9444.
Portland city employees elect Hester president of AFSCME Local 189
James Hester has been elected president of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees Local 189, the largest public employee union at the City of Portland, with nearly 1,100 members. He defeated Arlen Stepper for the post vacated by Larry Smith, who did not seek re-election.
Hester, 45, works as a police records specialist at the Portland Police Bureau. He will remain at that job while serving as union president, which is not a full-time position. Hester said he wants city employees to be recognized for the valuable work they do every day in public service. "This means an end to mean spirited, anti-employee and anti-union attitudes that run rampant through city bureau management," he said.
Hester graduated from Cleveland High School in Southeast Portland. He has a bachelor's degree in business from Warner Pacific College in Portland and an associates degree in journalism arts from Mt. Hood Community College in Gresham.
In other Local 189 election results, Chuck Moffit was re-elected vice president, John Wheeler was elected organizer; Robin Mariani-Moffit, treasurer; Joanne Hampton, secretary; Renee Zaner, newsletter editor; elected vice presidents on the Executive Board were: Chapter A Water, Greg Olson; Chapter C Cornelius, Laura Christy; Chapter F Police & Fire, Brooke Brown; Chapter H Headworks, Craig Macmillan; Chapter I Office of Management & Finance, Phillis Pace; Chapter K Bureau of Emergency Communications, Nancy Wilson and Stephanie Babb; Chapter S Water, Carol Stalhke; Chapter T Transportation, Cheryl Carlson; and Chapter X Bureau of Developmental Services, Jackie McLeod and Shukria Quereshi.
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