Three local chapters of the Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA) are merging to form one big local that will cover all construction and road laborers in Oregon. Local 296, Local 320 and Local 121 are the locals taking part in the merger. Add up those numbers and you get 737, the number of the new statewide local, which will have nearly 2,500 members.
The merger comes at the same time that Oregon and Southern Idaho Laborers-Employers Training Trust is putting the finishing touches on a newly-purchased 60,000-square-foot building at 17230 NE Sacramento St., Portland. That’s next door to the IBEW Local 125 hall, and just down the road from the Sheet Metal Workers training center. The new building will serve as the new statewide training center for the Laborers. It will also house the new Local 737 headquarters and offices for the Oregon and Southern Idaho Laborers District Council.
LiUNA’s three Portland offices are closing and will be put up for sale: Local 296’s hall at 4545 NE 102nd Ave., Local 320’s hall at 3312 SW 112th Ave., and the District Council office at 10245 SE Holgate Blvd. Also for sale is the 10-acre Laborers training center campus near Camp Adair in Corvallis.
Ben Nelson — who was the District Council’s assistant business manager — will be the new business manager of Local 737.
Nelson says the merger will lead to greater administrative efficiency, freeing up more resources for organizing. And combining the hiring halls will mean more job opportunities and less volatility for members. The combined hiring hall will benefit contractors as well, creating a larger pool of ready labor.
“Having one hiring hall statewide will be a big advantage.” Nelson said.
The merger could also mean that highway laborers would get a crack at working on a high-rise construction project, or construction laborers might get to work laying a pipeline.
“There will be opportunities for people who want to take on more challenges,” Nelson said.
Nelson said the union will circulate an updated skill sheet for members to declare what skills they possess and what parts of the state they want to work in.
“[The merger] will simplify things for members, and round out the ups and downs,” said Dave Tischer, business manager of Local 320.
The merger combines three locals:
- Local 296, headquartered in Portland, with 904 construction laborers
- Local 320, headquartered in Portland, with 889 road and highway and public sector laborers
- Local 121, headquartered in Bend, with 658 construction and highway laborers
Laborers Local 483, which has 921 members in the Portland metro area, will continue as a public sector local. Each of the merged locals also has small numbers of public employees, and long term, the plan is for them to transfer to Local 483, which would be given statewide jurisdiction. But for now, those members will stay with the merged local and keep the union representatives they have existing relationships with.
On the new Local 737 Executive Board, Nelson will be joined by six others: Local 320 business manager Dave Tischer, becomes president; District Council business manager Greg Held becomes vice president; Local 296 business manager Jack Roy becomes recording secretary; and Local 121 business manager Jeff Gritz, Local 296 recording secretary Zack Culver, and Local 320 vice president Dave Ball round out the Executive Board.
The merger came at the suggestion of the international union, and was ratified by each of the local memberships.
Nelson said the new local will hold an open house in the fall.