By Don McIntosh
For the first time since their craft was born 70 years ago, Portland-area drywall finishers in Oregon and Southwest Washington have their own union local: On June 1 the International Union of Painters and Allied Trades (IUPAT) chartered Local 101 as the union for drywall finishers.
Since at least 1953, when drywall started being widely used in construction instead of lathe and plaster, local drywall finishers had been part of Portland-headquartered Painters Local 10. But their numbers have been growing, and drywall finishers wanted their own local. Drywall finishers within Painters Local 300 of Seattle made a similar move, forming Local 364. Meetings to talk about forming a local were the best-attended ever, says Kirk Malcom, a drywall finisher and 24-year union member who was appointed by IUPAT District Council 5 to be Local 101’s business representative.
“There’s a sense of pride with crafts that have their own locals,” Malcom said. “Members had seen the success of Seattle, and Portland has grown significantly.”
Drywall finishers tape the joints between pieces of drywall, fill seams and holes with compound, and add textures and finishes. It’s a skilled trade, and the most skilled workers are on the union side of the industry.
“If it’s going to be a real showpiece, they hire a union contractor,” Malcom said. “Often, we go in and fix nonunion work.”
The new Local 101 has 454 members. They work for 33 signatory contractors, including 12 companies that belong to the employer group Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors of Oregon and Southwest Washington (AWCCO).
And they earn good money. Under their master agreement between AWCCO, journeyman drywall finishers make $40.42 an hour wage plus $18.03 an hour in health, pension, training and other contributions, for a total $58.45 an hour. Foremen earn $2 or $4 above that, and apprentices earn 60% to 90% of the journeyman wage as they progress through the 6,000 hours of work and instruction they need to become journeymen.
Several of IUPAT’s other “allied” trades also have their own locals in the Portland area: Glazers have IUPAT Local 740, flooring applicators have Local 1236; and truck painters, sign painters and paint makers are in Local 1094.
All share offices with Local 10 at the IUPAT hall at 11105 NE Sandy Boulevard in Portland. That’s also where Local 101 will hold general membership meetings when it becomes safe again to do so. For now, meeting are held online the first Monday of each month at 5 p.m.
Local 101 joins 13 other locals in Oregon, Washington, Alaska, Utah and Northern Idaho that make up IUPAT District Council 5. Local 101’s jurisdiction matches that of Local 10 (and Local 1236): all of Oregon and six Southwest Washington counties—Clark, Cowlitz, Klickitat, Pacific, Skamania, and Wahkiakum,
With the departure of the drywall finishers, about 725 members remain in Painters Local 10.
Drywall finisher members chose the number 101 because it showed the connection to Local 10 and signifies a new beginning. Malcom says Local 101 members will continue to regard Local 10 members as their brothers and sisters. Finishers and painters are employed by the same contractors, and work together on job sites.
District Council 5 appointed interim officers who will serve until the local can hold its first election. They are:
- President David Gray Jr.
- Vice President (Randy) William Johnson
- Financial Secretary Shaun Martin
- Recording Secretary Nathan Glade
- Treasurer Richard Pickrell
- Trustees Kerry Neill, Mike Paxton, Paul Buchholz.
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