By Don McIntosh
Since a May 21 unfair labor practice picket shut down a construction site at Portland’s McDaniel High School (formerly Madison), Painters Local 10 members have picketed eight other times at six other job sites. The unfair labor practice protests may have gotten contractors’ attention leading up to a June 15 wage re-opener bargaining session with a federal mediator.
Painters say their wages have fallen behind inflation and behind all other construction trades in the last few decades. But members of the multi-employer Signatory Painting Contractors Organization (SPCO) have said the economy’s too uncertain to give big raises after the $2.62 one they agreed to last year, and they’ve ignored the union’s request to show what work they have scheduled in the coming year. That’s the grounds for the union’s “unfair labor practice” charge—bad faith bargaining.
At each of the protests, painters who were scheduled to work that day declined to cross the picket line. Other building trades workers also stayed off the job at the May 21 McDaniel picket and at May 28 and June 1 pickets at a downtown apartment project. Since then, the pickets have been at painters-only job sites: June 4 at a Worksource office remodel at 6401 SE Foster; June 7 and 9 at Christensen Oil on 440 N Columbia Blvd., June 10 at a remodel of a house owned by Reed College, and June 14 at an Umpqua Bank branch in Happy Valley.
Local 10 members have voted to strike SPCO contractors if necessary, but union rep Scott Oldham clarified that technically these initial actions aren’t strikes but rather union picket lines set up in protest of unfair labor practices. Like other union members, Local 10 members have the right not to cross picket lines, and so far none have done so.
The pickets appear to have riled at least one contractor: Oldham says Ian Siegner, president of Siegner and Company, drove by the Reed College picket, yelled, “Losers. You all are losers!” and gave picketers the middle finger. Asked for his version of the encounter, Siegner told the Labor Press via email that he did go to that job site to view the picket, but had no verbal or physical encounters with anyone.