September 18, 2009 Volume 110 Number 18

Steelworkers Union organizes recycling firm

Seven weeks after one worker called the Oregon AFL-CIO asking how to unionize, 27 employees at CRT Processing in Clackamas became members of United Steel Workers (USW).

At CRT’s 10151 SE Jennifer St. facility in Clackamas, workers earn $10 an hour disassembling televisions, computers, monitors, and laptops; separating recyclable materials; and crushing cathode ray tubes.

In a Sept. 3 union election overseen by the National Labor Relations Board, they voted 16 to 8 to join USW. Union organizer Pete Passarelli said workers want raises, a wage scale, better health benefits, and better protection against exposure to toxics, such as lead in the cathode ray tube glass.

CRT, based in Janesville, Wisconsin, hired a Wisconsin law firm to run an anti-union campaign, Passarelli said. Workers were called in for one-on-one meetings with managers. But several local elected leaders got involved, and Passarelli says that boosted pro-union worker enthusiasm, and may have persuaded management to tone down the anti-union campaign.

CRT has the recycling work because of a 2007 “E-Waste” law passed by the Oregon Legislature. The law requires electronics manufacturers to provide free and convenient recycling services, and let them come up with their own way of doing that. This year they launched the program, in which Goodwill accepts electronics free of charge at its 38 stores and 58 donation centers around the state, and then transports the products to CRT’s Clackamas location.

State Sen. Jackie Dingfelder, author of the E-Waste legislation, wrote to workers saying she supported their campaign. State Rep. Brent Barton, whose district CRT is located in, wrote to the company asking that workers be allowed to choose freely whether or not to join the union. And U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley’s office sent labor liaison Ed Hall to a support picnic organized by USW locals in Albany.

No bargaining dates were scheduled at press time.

Now workers will elect a negotiation committee, which will work with a USW staff rep to develop contract proposals and begin bargaining with the company.

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