Plumbers & Fitters #290 ratifies six-year contract

Members of United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 290 ratified a new six-year collective bargaining agreement March 18 with 80 percent approval. The deal with the Oregon chapter of the Plumbing and Mechanical Contractors Association (PMCA) provides for annual increases of 3.5 percent — for a total increase of $16.03 over the life of the agreement.

The contract took effect April 1.

As is typical in construction bargaining, members decide how to divvy up the new money — whether it be in wages, pension contributions, or for health insurance. The increase on April 1 was $2.45. Members decided to put 99 cents on the check—bumping their hourly wage to $43.82. The full package of wages and fringe benefits increased to $72.40 an hour. Union members will meet every February through 2023 to decide where to apply that year’s raise.

Remarkably, bargaining the contract lasted just 2 hours, 23 minutes, said Local 290 Business Agent Travis Argue. A union committee had met with PMCA officials a few times prior to official bargaining, but when the sides sat down for the first time on March 4, Local 290’s first proposal was accepted.

“This contract is the product of labor-management relationship building that we’ve been working on for the last three years.” — Local 290 Business Manager Al Shropshire.

“It didn’t take very long, but honestly, this contract is the product of labor-management relationship building that we’ve been working on for the last three years,” said Local 290 Business Manager Al Shropshire.

Historically, bargaining has mostly been adversarial, with contracts running well past their expiration dates and customers worried about work stoppages. When a deal finally was reached, the sides were barely speaking to each other.

“We decided as a union and as contractors that there had to be a better way to do this,” Shropshire said. “Our goal was to present something that we believed was fair and reasonable for everyone.”

With bargaining behind them, the focus now, Shropshire said, is to increase market share. “This contract provides a lot of stability for the industry,” he said.

UA Local 290 is a multi-craft union with more than 4,300 active and retired members specializing in the fabrication, installation and servicing of piping systems throughout Oregon, Southwest Washington, and Northern California. Its training center is currently working with 400 apprentices,  with a new batch ready to enter.

PMCA is a coalition of more than 250 plumbing and mechanical contractors within the jurisdiction.

Shropshire expects the local will be at full employment within the next month or two — and lasting for at least two years.

In Oregon, Nike is in the midst of a 3.2 million square foot expansion at its world headquarters. New high rises are popping up in the Pearl District and in South Waterfront. Hospitals are embarking on extensive expansions projects. Google is adding another data center in The Dalles, and Intel is ready to ramp up again. School districts are passing bonds to construct new buildings and remodel old ones. Portland airport is preparing for a billion-dollar expansion. A new convention center headquarters hotel is about to break ground. Multnomah County is going to build a new courthouse. And the United States Post Office broke ground for a new main post office.

“Times will be good,” Shropshire predicted.

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