Shipyard workers at Cascade General ratified a new two-year contract May 28. The vote was 74-41. It was the third contract vote for the 184 workers represented by the Portland Metal Trades Council, a coalition of 10 craft unions at the shipyard on Swan Island. The previous contract expired Nov. 30, 2014.
Workers narrowly rejected a tentative agreement Jan. 16. The key issue was health insurance. The sides returned to the bargaining table Feb. 9, at which time Cascade General agreed to changes to the medical plan, but rescinded a ratification bonus that had been included in the first proposal. A new tentative contract eventually was reached, but in voting held April 6, workers again narrowly rejected the proposal. In another round of bargaining May 8, the union coalition got the employer to move on a slightly better offer—enough for ratification.
“It was a very difficult negotiations over several months,” said Bud Bartunek, area director of Painters District Council 5, and president of the Portland Metal Trades Council. “But we had members involved in the bargaining process with the employer. It helps having your members involved to point out different perspectives on issues.”
“We were able to avoid a last best and final. You never know what that will look like,” said Gary Moore, a business agent for Laborers Local 296 and executive secretary-treasurer of the Portland Metal Trades Council.
The new two-year contract expires Nov. 30, 2016. It adds $1.40 an hour to the overall package the first year, and $1.25 an hour the second year.
Workers can choose their preferred medical plan—either a 90-10 deductible plan through Regence Blue Cross or the current Kaiser Permanente plan, or an 80-20 deductible plan with Regence. Workers who choose the 80-20 plan will get a $1.02 hourly increase on their check. Those choosing to keep the 90-10 plan will see a 20-cent hourly wage increase.
Workers also will receive a one-time lump sum payment of $300 on Dec. 1, 2015 to offset the cost of health insurance. Workers must log a minimum of 80 hours in a month to qualify for the medical plan.
Cascade General is owned by Vigor Industrial. Vigor Industrial is the parent company of Vigor Marine at Swan Island, plus several other ship building and repair facilities in Seattle, Tacoma, Everett, Bremerton and Port Angeles.
Shipyard workers at Cascade General in Portland, Vigor Shipyard in Bremerton and Everett, Wash., and Washington Marine Repair in Seattle and Port Angeles, Wash., are covered under one master labor agreement negotiated and administered by the national Metal Trades Department, AFL-CIO. That agreement expires in June 2017. The region’s respective metal trades councils (i.e. Portland Metal Trades Council) then bargain local terms and conditions in side agreements, such as the one at Cascade General.
Bartunek and Moore said a goal of the Portland council was to align Cascade General’s contract expiration date as closely as possible with the national agreement—as well as with other union contracts at Vigor Industrial facilities—to better position themselves for future negotiations.
You can follow the council on Facebook at: Metal Trades Council of Portland and Vicinity.