February 19, 2010 Volume 111 Number 4

Exterior/Interior Specialists ratify new contract

Voting by mail, members of the United Brotherhood of Carpenters overwhelmingly approved a new Exterior/Interior Specialist Agreement with Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors of Oregon and Southwest Washington, after voting down an earlier version in mid-November.

The new agreement is retroactive to June 1, 2009, and runs to May 31, 2013. The pact covers about 1,200 building trades workers who specialize in installing walls and ceilings. That includes the 870 active members of Portland-based Local 2154, as well as about 300 interior/exterior specialists who are members of general Carpenters locals in Oregon and in Klickitat, Skamania, Clark, Cowlitz, Wahkiakum counties, and part of Pacific County, in Washington.

The agreement makes no changes to health care benefits, which are offered through a multi-employer trust.

On pension, members earlier voted to transfer $1.10 an hour from wages to shore up their multi-employer retirement fund, which, like most, lost value in the financial crisis. The extra contribution is meant to keep the fund from going into “red” status — a designation under the Pension Protection Act of 2006 in which the trust would be required to cut benefit “extras,” like the all-important “80-and-out” early-retirement provision. Under that rule, members can retire with full pension benefits if their age plus years of service equal 80 (e.g., a 55-year-old member with 25 years in the trade.) Because hanging drywall takes a significant toll on the body, keeping 80-and-out is a top priority for members.

“We like retiring when we have bones that move,” explained Local 2154 president Bruce Epstein.

Under the new contract, members gave back the 45-cents-an-hour increase they won after a 2007 strike; that plus the $1.10 shift to the pension brings the wage portion of the compensation package to $31.59 an hour for journeyman drywallers. The contract contains no raises during its four-year time frame, but does have an option each year to reopen negotiations on wages. It also has a “me-too” provision: Drywallers would get a vote on any wage increase offered to general carpenters who work under the separate Associated General Contractors agreement.

The earlier version of the contract, which was voted down by members, was a two-year deal. It contained cuts to parking and mileage reimbursement, and zone pay for working out of a member’s home area. Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters was able to negotiate restoration of zone pay. The rejected contract also included a lower 85 percent pay rate for private construction contracts valued at less than $750,000, while the final version lowered that threshold to $500,000, meaning fewer jobs would pay the lower rate. 

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