VANCOUVER, Wash. — Mike Richards is retiring at the end of the year as executive secretary-treasurer (EST) of Office and Professional Employees Local 11. Richards is in the middle of his fourth term leading the 2,000-member local.
Earlier this month, Local 11’s Executive Board selected business rep Maureen Colvin to fill out the remainder of the term, which expires in May 2017.
Richards, 67, joined Local 11 in 1969 after helping to organize his co-workers in the Utility Department at the City of Vancouver. He was serving as a shop steward at the City when Local 11 hired him as a union rep in 1979. There, he was assigned to Consolidated Freightways, one of the largest bargaining units of the local until its bankruptcy in 2002. “Deregulation of the trucking industry is what allowed that to happen,” said Richards.
He left Local 11 in 1990 to become director of field operations for the Oregon School Employees Association. The job required lots of travel, keeping him away from his family. After five years he returned to Local 11. In 2005 he was elected executive secretary-treasurer, and has held the post ever since.
In 2010, Local 11 purchased property in northwest Vancouver and built a 5,000-square-foot office building, moving from a rented office space in Northeast Portland.
“It’s one of my biggest accomplishments,” Richard said.
Richards was born in Vancouver. He graduated from Hudson’s Bay High School, dabbled briefly in community college, and worked several union jobs prior to his work at the City of Vancouver. He has held union cards with Iron Workers Local 516, Teamsters Local 58, and the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers.
Richards has served on the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board, and as a trustee to several pension, 401(k), and health and welfare trusts. He is relinquishing his role in all of them.
“I’ve been through some good times, and I’ve been through some really tough times,” he said. “But I’ve been here long enough. It’s time to let it go.”
Maureen Colvin, 50, has been a union rep at Local 11 for the last decade. She has served the local as president, on the Executive Board, and as a shop steward. She joined the union in 1997 after taking a job as a court assistant for Clark County District Court. She is a native of Vancouver, and a graduate of Fort Vancouver High School.
“I’m honored that our Executive Board has the confidence to ask that I step in as the interim executive secretary-treasurer of our union. With great pride, I accept this task and will fully give 100 percent in sustaining the business of OPEIU Local 11 and ensure nothing goes amiss,” Colvin said.
She says her goal is to strengthen the union’s relationship with members. “We have a challenging new presidential administration coming on board, and the road for unions as a whole will be tough when considering organizing and sustaining what we have,” she said.
“I’m not sure who said this, but one of my favorite quotes is: ‘You never know how strong you are until being strong is the only choice you have.’ Right now, that’s our only choice.”
Colvin says she will run for a full term as EST next spring.
Local 11 represents approximately 1,800 members employed in all phases of office, professional, technical and industrial related work located in five states —Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana and Utah. Its largest bargaining unit is NW Natural.