Painters turn down $2.94 in raises, return to bargaining

By Don McIntosh

In a lopsided 82-30 vote, members of Painters Local 10 rejected an employer offer to raise their wages $2.94 an hour over the next year. Voting took place via drive-through balloting July 6 in union parking lots in Portland, Salem, Eugene and Prineville.

“They felt like they didn’t want to continue to fall behind,” said Painters Local 10 rep Scott Oldham.

“It would have been the largest three-year raise we would have received in decades,” explained Painters District Council 5 representative Scott Oldham. “However, I think the sentiment from the members was that they’re trying to catch up to the other trades. And this was not a big enough movement.”

Oldham says Local 10 members are determined to make big strides after having lost ground to inflation for decades, during which time union painters’ pay rates fell behind those of all other local construction trades union members. Wages under the current contract with Signatory Painting Contractors Organization (SPCO) are $26.56 an hour for commercial and residential painting and $28.36 for industrial painting. SPCO offered a $2.94 wage increase (plus 56 cents more for benefits) after an escalating series of unfair labor practice strikes that began May 21; before the strikes it was offering just $0.25 an hour.

“The threat of the strike had everything to do with the sudden increase,” Oldham said.

A day after members rejected SPCO’s offer, a competing contractor organization offered more generous raises: a $6.75 an hour increase in total compensation within the next 24 months. Under the tentative agreement with Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors (AWCC), journeyman wages that are currently $27 an hour would rise $2 an hour retroactive to July 1, 2021, plus 10 cents for health insurance and 20 cents for pension. The total package would increase again $2.30 an hour July 1, 2022, and $2.15 an hour July 1, 2023, to be divided among wages and benefits as determined by membership vote. AWCC proposes an even bigger 2023 increase if the union market share and work picture improve: Members would get an additional $1 an hour if commercial paint hours increase 5%, and $1.50 if hours increase more than 10%. 

“That would be an incentive for us as a union to seriously try to grow market share,” Oldham said.

Local 10 members were set to vote on the AWCC proposal July 14 (after this issue went to press), with the union bargaining team strongly recommending a “yes” vote.

Local 10’s bargaining team met July 8 and 13 with SPCO to discuss further improvements, and the two sides were set to meet again July 15, after this issue went to press. Oldham predicted SPCO was likely to match AWCC’s offer.

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