By COLIN STAUB
Metal trades unions are holding a second strike authorization vote after shipyard workers in Portland and Seattle voted to reject a tentative agreement with Vigor Marine.
The AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department represents about 900 workers at Vigor and the two sides have been negotiating since the previous contract expired Nov. 30. The company’s offer has increased since it initially offered a $1,250 signing bonus and hourly raises of $0.35, $0.60, and $0.75 in a three-year contract. In its most recent offer, Vigor proposed a $2,000 ratification bonus and $1.10, $1.25 and $1.40 per hour raises, while maintaining existing benefits.
The Metal Trades Department brought that offer to a vote on March 4. But members—including workers represented by the Boilermakers, IBEW, Painters, Laborers, Sheet Metal, Pipefitters, Machinists, Teamsters and Operating Engineers—voted to reject it.
“I think their general thought was that with the price that they’re paying for gas and groceries, coupled with the inflation rate, they felt like it was not enough,” said Painters union rep Scott Oldham, president of the Portland Metal Trades Council.
For an average journeyman at the shipyard making about $35 an hour, the raises in the tentative agreement worked out to a little over 3%, at a time when inflation is running above 7.5%.
Unions at the shipyard have been staging actions to build solidarity among workers, including a series of “punch-out walkout” actions where workers clock out en masse and gather at the end of their shifts. They’ve also been preparing for the possibility of a strike, hosting a sign-making event at the Painters union hall in January.
In December, members voted by 95% to approve a strike pre-authorization. Oldham said the Metal Trades Council wants to gauge current sentiment among workers, so the union planned another strike vote for March 15. Results were not available by press time.
After that vote, Vigor and the unions will return to the bargaining table.