Baggage handlers at PDX vote to join Machinists Union

Contract baggage handlers at Portland International Airport (PDX) voted April 2 to join Machinists District W24.

The 24 regular full-time and part-time “bag jammer technicians” and dispatchers work for ABM Onsite Services West, Inc. Workers oversee the conveyor system inside the matrix at PDX, ensuring that all passengers’ luggage leaving on departing flights makes it safely and efficiently to the ramp agents.

Workers first sought union representation in July 2014. After a petition was filed with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), the employer challenged the jurisdiction, contending that ABM’s operations and employees at PDX were subject to the Railway Labor Act (RLA).

The NLRB typically refers such matters to the National Mediation Board, which administers RLA, if jurisdiction is in doubt, but not until hearing from both sides. A hearing took place in late January, at which time the labor agency determined that the NLRB had jurisdiction over this case.

The NLRB oversaw the election, and on April 2, 75 percent of the workforce voted to join Machinists Lodge 1005.

Bargaining for a first contract began in late April.

ABM is a Delaware corporation that provides janitorial, parking, facilities engineering, security, and landscaping services at locations nationwide.

At PDX, the company contracts with the Portland Airlines Consortium to assist with baggage screening. The consortium is comprised of all the airlines that operate out of the Portland airport.

After 9-11, all airports were required to install equipment needed for security screening.

The Port of Portland, which operates PDX, constructed a 5-mile-long conveyor called the Inline Baggage Handling System (BHS). The Port leases the BHS to the Portland Airlines Consortium which, in turn, contracts with ABM to operate it.

Will Luken, a union rep and organizer for the Machinists Union, said workers at ABM are concerned about low wages, lack of training, and job safety.

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