Laborers Local 296 has a new top officer: longtime business rep Jack Roy, appointed business-manager/secretary-treasurer following the retirement of Ken Morgan. Roy served the remaining two months of Morgan’s term, and ran unopposed for the job in May.
Roy grew up in the Portland area, attended Reynolds High School, and followed his dad, a member of Operating Engineers Local 701, into the building trades. He got his first union job at age 18, as a member of Laborers Local 320, the Portland-area heavy highway local. He worked for Ross Brothers pouring concrete to construct highway bridges in Beaverton. Roy says he enjoyed the work, which included drilling rock and using dynamite to blast rock and stumps to widen roads. He did that for 10 years, then moved to Texas to look for work in 1982, when the Oregon economy was in bad shape.
When his Texas employer, J.W. Bateson, got a construction contract on the Portland Veterans Hospital, he moved back to Oregon in January 1984, and became a member of Local 296.
Unionism is a brotherhood. It’s a family.” — Jack Roy
Local 296 represents close to 900 members, including construction laborers and hod carriers, shipyard laborers, weatherization workers, landscapers and other laborers at school districts and in public housing, and heavy and highway laborers in Southern Oregon. It has a headquarters a 4545 NE 102nd Ave, in Portland, and a satellite office in Central Point that focuses on heavy highway and commercial construction.
Most Local 296 members work under contracts with Associated General Contractors (AGC) and the General and Concrete Contractors Association (GCCA), which are negotiated by the district council. The current agreements run through May 31, 2016. Under the AGC contract, the hourly wage is $27.44, and total compensation comes to $40.89.
Those wages and benefits make a strong argument for construction laborers to join the union; for employers, a big selling point is access to a ready pool of skilled labor that doesn’t need to stay on the payroll after a job is done.
Local 296 union reps get members placed on jobs, take care of problems on job sites, enforce the union contract, recruit new union members, and sign up new contractors. The business manager also does those things, and oversees staff of six, including three business representatives, two office support staff, and a dispatcher.
“Unionism is a brotherhood,” Roy says. “It’s a family.”
In Ken Morgan’s case, family is also union: His son Derick is a Local 296 member.
Ken Morgan, 62, grew up in Buxton, Oregon, the son of a logger. During the Vietnam War he served in the U.S. Air Force as a crew chief repairing F-4 fighters and other aircraft in Saigon. In the mid-to-late 1970s, he worked as a union laborer on highways and pipelines with Laborers Local 341 in Anchorage, Alaska. In 1979, he moved to Portland and joined Local 296. He attended union meetings, became an Executive Board member, and was hired as a business representative in 2006, working for members on the West side of the Portland area. In 2007, he was appointed business manager to replace Richard Steward, who died of heart attack.
“I believe in the union,” Morgan said, “the benefits, and what it does for our families and for society. If everybody had union health care and pensions, we wouldn’t have so much need.”
As business manager, Morgan helped keep the union going through five years of economic downturn. He also oversaw a remodel of the Portland union hall and development of the Local 296 web site, and made it possible for members to pay dues over the phone.
Morgan says he looks forward to traveling with his wife Lynn in retirement, a retirement made possible by a union pension that, unlike some others, is in good health. Morgan will continue to serve as a union trustee on the Oregon Laborers Employers Pension Trust Fund.
All Local 296 officers ran unopposed this year. Besides Roy, that included: President Gary Moore; Vice President Earl Browning; Recording Secretary Zack Culver; Sergeant-at-Arms J.P. Wedge; Auditors Jeff Olson, Shon Brinkmeyer, and Scott Hancock; Executive Board members Paul Askew, Dago Aranda, and Greg Held; and District Council Delegates Greg Held, Jack Roy, Gary Moore Jr, and Gary Jackson. Terms of office are three years.