VANCOUVER — More than 150 union members, politicians, family and friends attended the 31st annual Labor Roundtable of Southwest Washington awards banquet Sept. 25 at the Vancouver Hilton Hotel and Convention Center.
Awards are given to individuals or organizations whose leadership has made a significant impact on organized labor and the community at large. Awards are presented in a variety of categories.
The Phil Parker Public Service Award for Excellence went to former Clark County sherriff Gary Lucas. Parker, a member of IBEW Local 48, was the longtime chair of the Labor Roundtable who died of a heart attack two years ago.
John Murphy, a retired union rep for Bakery, Confectionery, Tobacco Workers and Grain Millers Local 364, was named “Union Member of the Year.”
Dave Ritchey, business manager of Laborers Local 335, was awarded “Labor Leader of the Year.” Ritchey has served as the leader of the local for 15 years. He said he plans to retire at the end of the year.
Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 775 was awarded “Labor Union of the Year.” No one was present to receive the award.
The “Community Service Award” went to Vancouver City Councilmember Anne McEnery-Ogle, a retired teacher and member of the Oregon Education Association.
The “Lifetime Achievement Award” went to retiring Port of Vancouver commission president Nancy Baker. “When I first ran for port commissioner I was told I needed to understand labor issues. I went out and did that … and you have become part of my family,” she said.
Columbia Litho Printing and Imaging took home the “Labor Service Award.” Accepting the award was owner Pat Guard, a member of the Graphic Communications International Union, a division of the Teamsters. He bought the business from his father (also a member of GCIU) in 1988.
“Business of the Year” went to SEH America Inc. Accepting the award was Ben Bagherpour, vice president of operations.
A first-time award — “Legislator of the Year” — was presented to State Sen. Annette Cleveland (D-19th District).
The “In Solidarity Award” for work in the community went to Didi Gray of the Washington State Nurses Association who works at PeaceHealth Southwest Medical Center. Gray is a new delegate to the Southwest Washington Central Labor Council, which sponsors the award.
Special presentations were made to Vancouver City councilmember Larry Smith and to Clark College president Bob Knight for their military service. Both men are veterans of the U.S. Army, and each received a plaque and a U.S. flag donated by U.S. Sen. Maria Cantwell, and that at one time had flown over the U.S. Capitol. Smith served for 26 years, retiring in August 1991 as an infrantry colonel. Knight attended the U.S. Military Academy at West Point, and served more than 21 years as an infantry officer before retiring as a lieutenant colonel. His last duty was as commander of Vancouver Barracks.
The keynote speaker was Reema Griffith, executive director of the Washington State Transportation Commission.
Congratulatory messages were received from Sen. Cantwell, U.S. Sen. Patty Murray, Washington Gov. Jay Inslee, and Third District Congresswoman Jamie Herrera Beutler.
Rob Aichele, a union rep for the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters, won the 50/50 drawing worth $835. He donated his winnings to a needy family of the Cowlitz Indian Tribe. Philip Harju, vice chair and tribal attorney, accepted the donation. Harju then told the crowd that “hundreds of millions of dollars” in construction on roads, interchanges, and a new Cowlitz casino in La Center will be done with union labor under a project labor agreement.