Ironworker strike now in Month 8

Instafab employees Brandon Nelson (front) and Brian McCafferty walked off the job Sept. 22, joining a strike that began Feb. 27. They were greeted outside by fellow strikers and supporters with Portland Jobs with Justice.
Instafab employees Brandon Nelson (front) and Brian McCafferty walked off the job Sept. 22, joining a strike that began Feb. 27. They were greeted outside by fellow strikers and supporters with Portland Jobs with Justice.

A strike at nonunion Instafab  is now in its eighth month, with no resolution in sight.

The strike began Feb. 27 when five workers walked off the job at the Vancouver steel fabrication and erection company to protest wages and working conditions.

“We want to be treated fair. That’s all we want,” says striker Matt Momb.

Other workers have since joined the strike, bringing the total to 16.

Strikers have the support of Iron Workers Locals 29 and 516, and Portland Jobs with Justice. They have appealed to Instafab customers like Anderson Construction and Skanska to drop the company, but it’s not clear Instafab has lost any business thus far — just employees.

Clearing Out At InstafabSince July, neither side has attempted to make contact with the other. In June, Instafab owner Bruce Perkins said he wanted to meet with workers — in online comments at this newspaper’s web site. After that, the two sides worked out plans to a meet July 8 at a Vancouver church, and workers agreed to Perkins’ condition that there be no representatives of the Iron Workers union present. But Perkins backed out when he learned that Portland Jobs with Justice executive director Diana Pei Wu would be attending.

So far, several strikers have found work elsewhere, and two strikers have returned to work, though one later returned to the strike.

Iron Workers Local 29 President Robert Camarillo says Instafab has made some improvements since the strike began — raising wages, installing an additional port-a-potty, and improving the employer-provided health insurance.

Strikers are waiting for action from the National Labor Relations Board. The union has four charges against Instafab alleging violations of federal labor law. One of the charges stems from statements Perkins made using an alias at nwlaborpress.org. All four charges are pending investigation, and so is a charge Instafab filed filed by an Instafab employee against Local 29.

8 Comments on Ironworker strike now in Month 8

  1. Good article, although I believe that the number of striking workers is now far less than 16. I’d like to see whom they consider to be on strike. Maybe Camarillo will update his list for me? Nelson was on strike once before, but came back to work. His return to Instafab seemed to have a lot to do with promoting the union. I wasn’t at all surprised when he left, although he did good work while he was here. Do you get counted every time you walk out?

    Of course, it’s not about the number of strikers, but more about the number of workers that would vote to bring a union into Instafab (if there ever is a vote). And with what I have been reading about “card check” elections, an actual vote may not even be necessary. I have a lot to learn here.

    It was unfortunate about the failed meeting with the strikers on July 8th. I specifically mentioned to the strikers that I didn’t want to meet with anyone from Jobs with Justice, and they agreed to that. Including Ms. Pei Wu in the meeting felt like a violation of trust. The meeting probably wasn’t a great idea in the first place. I don’t think the workers are driving the strike, I think the union is. If the current batch of strikers said that they no longer wanted to be involved, I don’t think the union would stop- they would just recruit new strikers. Camarillo is calling and texting our workers constantly. If we met every demand on the strikers’ lists except for union representation, I don’t think the union would stop their campaign.

    I still find it odd that the workers can decide if they want to be part of a union or not- total freedom of choice. As a business owner, I do not have that freedom of choice. It feels very one-sided and unfair.

  2. Allan-

    The workers are the union when they belong to a union. The workers at Instafab are the heart and soul of Instafab, and have been a team for almost 30 years. If you want to call that a union, go ahead. Now you’re saying that is not good enough? In your world, should open shops just not be allowed to exist? As us smaller shops grow, do we become an attractive target for the union? No one from the outside seemed to be concerned about our workforce’s welfare when we were smaller.

    The unions are a business. Camarillo is not a volunteer. If the unions have enough work, why not just recruit our employees? Unions pay more, and have better benefits. Hiring our workers should be easy to do. Is there something else that the union wants?

    Having to become signatory to a union locks me in to a relationship with a business that I don’t necessarily agree with- like a badly arranged marriage. In this country, we are supposed to be free to marry who we please, or not marry at all.

    Bruce

  3. Let’s correct several “facts” printed here.

    To date there are only 12 strikers. Total. Not 16.

    Our health insurance has not changed. We are locked into our current plan, as we always have been since January 1, 2015 until we renew again in January 2016. Nobody ever checked the lies that the original strikers claimed (at one point saying we had a $20,000 deductible!?) Which was, of course, a lie. So maybe finding out the truth might seem like we improved the insurance offered to our employees. When in all actuality, nothing has changed there.

    We did give raises, but then….. it’s been almost a year since original strike. What company doesn’t give raises at least annually?

    You say two strikers returned to work, and one went on strike again? Make that two went on strike again. You have a photo of #2 right here.

    You’re welcome.

  4. If Instafab’s owner won’t negotiate with the strikers, they should bring him before the NLRB for not bargaining in good faith- I wonder what they’re waiting for? Maybe that rule only applies to companies that belong to a Union. It sounds like the Union will just keep harassing Instafab, their workers and their customers until the owner either signs up with the Union or just walks away.

    One would think that, after 8 months, the Union organizers would either succeed in organizing the company or just give up. The Union has been paying a lot of strikers a lot of money every week to try to Unionize Instafab. I wonder how much Local 29 is willing to spend, and why is it so important to them?

    Alton

  5. I am not sure what kind of vindication the strikers are looking for. Their complaint about my on-line comments has been excused completely. There are still a couple of other charges pending with the NLRB, but they won’t affect or help the striker’s status in the least. For what the union pays the strikers, you would think that they would want to get something more done. Picking off an occasional disgruntled worker every month or so doesn’t make much sense. The number of strikers has dropped way off. Littering the streets and parking lots with attack flyers, and going around threatening our customers and suppliers seems to be the union’s main focus right now. All of that sure does not appear to be working.

    I don’t see a real need for any kind of negotiation right now. What could we possibly talk about? The union wants us to unionize, and I do not want to do that. Seems simple. They try to get their strikers to turn our workers and customers against us, and we try to do a good job and take care of business.

    Camarillo and the strikers have been pretty quiet on-line. I don’t think that any forum allows a response to their claims serves them well. One-sided stories and flyers seem to suit them better.

    I guess we’ll wait for them to do something. Maybe they should try getting some work for the guys they have that are laid off, and the problem would just go away.

  6. Brenda

    All Instafab Employees were given a Christmas Bonus! A Christmas Bonus! Almost unheard of these days and then some go on strike??? I just don’t get it. This company is very fair and very generous. I am grateful and proud to work here and those of you who are not, who want more for less…. please just go find other jobs or better yet start your own companies. Then you can get educated on fairness, loyalty, & trust and trying to live with your conscience.

  7. So Camarillo and crew were out here last Thursday giving away sandwiches at lunch time, reminds me of the mob…come over here I got a little proposition for you. Bribes, whispers, to much time on your hands, the distractions are not fair to the people who want to be here and WANT TO WORK, an honest days pay for an HONEST days work… get real jobs leave Instafab alone.

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