By Don McIntosh
For about 440 members of Painters Local 10 employed by members of the Signatory Painting Contractors Organization (SPCO), the current union contract is proving to be life-changing, raising wages by more than $7 an hour over its three-year span. Last year, members ratified the overall contract—including first-year raises of $2.62 to $4.27 an hour—while leaving second- and third-year raises open to further negotiation. On July 27, 2021, they voted to approve those second and third year raises: an immediate $2.20 an hour (plus an extra 30 cents for health and pension benefits); and a $2.30 increase on July 1, 2022 (members will decide later how to divide that increase among wages and benefits).
The vote to ratify raises that total about $4.50 an hour came exactly three weeks after members voted down SPCO’s earlier offer of a pair of increases that totalled $2.94.
Scott Oldham, field representative for Local 10, said the rapid progress all owes to painters regaining their ability to strike. Prior to 2018, Local 10’s contracts with SPCO specified that if the two sides couldn’t agree on the terms of a successor contract, an arbitrator would decide the terms. That deprived the union of the potential leverage of a strike.
“The relationship changed almost overnight simply with the power of the strike,” Oldham says.
When SPCO this year wouldn’t go higher than 25 cents an hour for the contract’s second year increase, Local 10 members began an escalating series of strikes on May 21.
“Those first painters who stood out on the line on those strikes … without them participating and having the strength to do that, we would have never got anywhere,” Oldham said. “Members taking that big step, that’s what did it.”
On July 14, Local 10 members also ratified by 73% a separate agreement with the Associated Wall and Ceiling Contractors (AWCC) that raises wages $2 an hour now and $2.30 an hour July 1, 2022.
The higher wages may help union contractors attract more employees and increase market share vis-a-vis the non-union competition.
“We feel like these are wages that we can go out and recruit with,” Oldham told the Labor Press. “We’re excited to get out there in the field and lure the best workers out of the nonunion side.”
Signatory Painting Contractors Organization – wage re-opener details
Effective immediately, these are the hourly wage rates for journeyman painters in year two of the three-year contract (plus $7.06/hr for health insurance and $5.75/hr for pension)
- Commercial/residential $28.76 wage, $42.90 total package
- Industrial $30.56 wage, $44.70 total package
- Bridge $36.23 wage, $50.37 total package