Machinists strike Cummins NW

Approximately 100 Machinist Union members at four Cummins NW shops in Oregon and Washington are engaged in an unfair labor practice strike against their employer.

Twenty-three service mechanics — members of Machinists Lodge 1005 — hit the picket line on July 7 at the Cummins NW’s facility on Swan Island.

The labor dispute started after Don Pugh, the authorized distributor of Cummins NW Inc., sold his majority ownership to a Florida man. Cummins NW Inc. operated service and parts facilities in Portland, Coburg, Medford and Pendleton, Ore., Renton, Spokane, Yakima and Chehalis, Wash., and in Anchorage, Alaska and Missoula, Montana.

Following the sale on April 1, 2006, the new owner — Rod Stohler, whose family had ties to a Cummins distributorship in Florida — voided contracts the Machinists and Teamsters unions had in Portland, Pendleton, Renton and Spokane. The other facilities operate nonunion.

“They voided the contracts and made all the employees reapply for their jobs,” said Scott Lucy, a business representative of Machinists District Lodge 24 in Portland.

The new owner said he would recognize the unions, but not the existing contracts. However, following the sale, the company quit paying into the IAM’s defined benefit automotive pension plan. At the bargaining table in Portland, management is trying to implement a 401(k) savings plan. Each union bargains its own contract. Other unions involved are IAM District Lodge 751 in Kent; IAM District Lodge 160 in Spokane, and Teamsters Locals 763 and 690 in Washington.

“Bargaining has been problematic, to say the least,” Lucy said.

It came to a head on July 7, prompting the Machinists to file unfair labor practice complaints with the National Labor Relations Board. The charges allege that Cummins NW LLC has failed to provide timely information during negotiations; that it is making unilateral changes in the terms and conditions of work, such as health and welfare and retirement plans; and that it is interrogating employees and trying to bargain with them individually.

Cummins NW Inc. has had a checkered past with the Machinists Union, so workers are preparing for a lengthy strike.

Lodge 1005 members struck the parts distribution center for 115 days in 1999. During that strike, union members were permanently replaced, and the department eventually went nonunion. One Machinist member committed suicide after learning he had no job to return to. In the late ‘90s, employees decertified the Machinists Union in Medford and Coburg.

Pickets are up Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m. Negotiations are scheduled July 21 in Portland.