George Miller, a retired directing business representative of Portland-based International Association of Machinists (IAM) District Council 24, died at home in his sleep Sept. 10. He was 85.
Miller was president of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council from May 1988 to July 1992, when he took early retirement due to high blood pressure. Several years ago he was diagnosed with amyloid heart disease.
At the time of his retirement he held numerous posts in the IAM. He was on the IAM’s National Bargaining Committee, which negotiated contracts with the Boeing Co. for its plants in Oregon, Washington and several other states; he chaired a Northwest dental benefits trust fund; served as a trustee of a pension fund for workers in the metal industry in the West; and set legislative and political policy as a member of the National Planning Committee of the Machinists Non-Partisan Political League. He also chaired an IAM committee that coordinated local contract bargaining in the machine and manufacturing industry in the Pacific Northwest.
He was also a senior member of the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board and its Finance Review Committee. He served as a board member of Guide Dogs of America, a Los Angeles area training program for seeing-eye dogs founded 70 years ago by the IAM; and on the board of directors of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company, the labor-owned, non-profit publisher of the Northwest Labor Press. On top of all that, Miller served as a governor-appointed member of the Port of Portland Commission.
George Mitchell Miller was born in Hillsboro, Oregon, on June 21, 1935. He had seven brothers and two sisters. He grew up on Southeast 21st Avenue in Portland, not far from where he later worked in the Machinists Building on Southeast 32nd Avenue, just off Powell Boulevard. (It is now the Oregon AFL-CIO headquarters.) He graduated from Cleveland High School in 1954. It was there that he met his future wife, Lois. They wed in 1956.
After high school Miller worked as a longshoreman before taking a job as a degreaser at the old Iron Fireman factory in SW Portland. Miller first became a member of Electrical Workers Local 49, but when he shifted to a job at the firm’s plant on Northeast Sandy Boulevard he started working in the jurisdiction of Machinists Local 63 and joined that union. He became an operator of radial drills and small lathes.
A series of ownership changes for the Iron Fireman plants eventually resulted in Boeing taking over in 1974. In his years at Iron Fireman and several other corporate entities and finally Boeing, Miller was active in Machinists Lodge 63 as a shop steward, chief steward, negotiating committee member, executive board member, and chairman of the union’s bylaws, safety and picnic committees. He also was elected a delegate to various councils and conventions. He attended IAM leadership schools at the University of Oregon, University of California at Los Angeles and the University of Wisconsin. That experience and training prepared him for appointment as a District 24 business agent in 1977 and election as directing business representative in 1981.
Because of high blood pressure, Miller retired early, at age 57. He continued paying full dues to the union until December 2000, when he filed his official retirement paperwork with the union.
In retirement Miller served on two state panels — the Oregon Board of Maritime Pilots and the Prison Industries Board Advisory Committee. He also remained active in the Foursquare Church in Beaverton, where he and his wife Lois taught Sunday School for many years.
Miller is survived by his wife, Lois; daughter, Terry Banton, of Beaverton; four grandchildren; and one great-granddaughter. He was preceded in death by son, Jim, a member of the Machinists Union employed by Boeing in Seattle.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, funeral services will be held at a later date at Forest Hills Golf Course, where Miller played regularly.
The family asks that remembrances be sent to IAM Guide Dogs of America.