By Don McIntosh
Members of four unions at the Daimler Trucks North America truck plant in Portland’s Swan Island Industrial District have ratified new five-year collective bargaining agreements. The new contracts will raise wages $4 an hour, among other improvements, and hold the line on employee health insurance costs. The agreements cover close to 700 workers: 460 members of Machinists Lodge 1005, 120 members of Teamsters Local 305, 70 members of Sign Painters & Paint Makers Local 1094, and 20 members of Service Employees Local 49.
Workers under all four new agreements get an immediate $1.20 an hour raise, followed by annual raises of $0.70, $0.70, $0.80, and $0.60. The raises total $4 an hour, and work out to roughly 3% a year depending on the starting point. Daimler is also front-loading the union wage progression scales with larger early raises in order to give newer hires greater incentive to stick around. And Daimler agreed to a union proposal for an “essential worker” bonus of up to $2,500 as a way to thank workers who kept the plant running through the coronavirus pandemic. The new agreements maintain the status quo on health benefits. That means no increase in medical costs for members for the next five years. The new agreements run through Oct. 30, 2026.
Negotiations were led by Machinists rep Dwain Panian, a 32-year employee of the truck plant. At an Oct. 30 meeting attended by about three-fourths of members, the agreement was well-received, Panian says, and a big majority voted to ratify. For a production assembly worker in Lodge 1005, the increases will raise the top wage (which they reach after five years) from $28.05 an hour to $32.05 by the end of the contract term, while the typical Teamster wage will rise from 26.32 to $30.32.
For Machinist members, Daimler will continue to contribute 7% of payroll to a 401(k), and will triple the amount it’s willing to match additional worker contributions—to 3% of payroll. [Daimler withdrew from an underfunded multi-employer pension in 2017.]
“The company did not come with a lot of asks, because they were not looking for a labor dispute,” Panian told the Labor Press. “The unions did not come with a lot of asks, because we were not looking for a labor dispute. Our ask was to keep up with the cost of living. We just needed to know that the company was going to take care of the members. And we really feel they did.”
Panian said bargaining was similar in tone to negotiations in 2016 that also produced a five-year deal. That smooth sailing was a contrast to the 2013 bargaining, when machinists and painters struck for 22 days.
Members of Lodge 1005 showed resolve as the contract expiration neared: At an Oct. 23 meeting attended by more than half the bargaining unit, the vote was unanimous to authorize the union bargaining committee to call a strike if they couldn’t get an acceptable agreement.
A separate Machinists bargaining unit of 15 workers who do custom work on trucks prior to delivery also ratified a new agreement on the same terms.
In a reversal of its previous pattern of shifting work to Mexico, Daimler has lately increased its workforce in the Portland plant and made new capital investments as it gears up to produce two new lines of electric trucks.