By COLIN STAUB
Mechanics and lube technicians at a Portland Volvo dealership voted 7 to 3 to be represented by the Machinists District Lodge W24 in ballots counted June 1. The vote count came just over four months after workers announced their intent to unionize. It was attended by Machinists rep Jon Irvine, mechanic and union supporter Connor Hogan, dealership owner Jim Fisher, Jr. and attorney Alex Wheatley from management law firm Fisher Phillips.
Irvine, the Machinists organizer on the Jim Fisher Volvo campaign, said the vote went exactly as he and the workers thought it would. Since service department workers marched on management in January, the seven union supporters there have been attending meetings at the Machinists lodge. They’ve attended rallies supporting the union effort. They’ve barbecued at Irvine’s house. Basically, Irvine says, they’ve been willing to act like a union from day one.
Hogan, the Jim Fisher mechanic who initially contacted the Machinists, said the multiple shows of community support helped maintain support among coworkers. In March, the Portland Democratic Socialists of America, Portland Jobs with Justice, Starbucks Workers United and other groups joined the Machinists for a highly visible picket outside Jim Fisher Volvo on West Burnside Street.
Irvine said that rally had a big impact on management.
“I don’t think the employer would have taken it as seriously if it wasn’t for the support of the broader labor community,” he said.
The Jim Fisher Volvo campaign was also featured during the Oregon AFL-CIO’s March convention, where all seven union-supportive mechanics attended and Hogan spoke about their reasons for unionizing.
Another factor in the union victory: Management’s decision to bring in union busting consultants. The union busters came in and treated workers poorly, Hogan says, including employees who were on the fence about unionizing until then.
“They were like, okay, yeah, screw that,” Hogan said.
Machinists District Lodge W24 union reps Carol Krohn and Bob Petroff will assist the union’s negotiations.
Irvine said the biggest concern at this point is that the company through its legal counsel (anti-union law firm Fisher Phillips) will not bargain in good faith and will drag out the process to prevent workers from getting a contract. Hogan says during the dealership’s anti-union campaign, the Fisher Phillips lawyers actually told workers that bargaining might drag on for years without a contract.
“We’re ready for that,” Irvine said. “If it appears that’s what they’re doing, then we will just do another informational picket, or three, or five, or six.”
The workers are now the only unionized dealership service department in the Portland area, and it’s even a rare status nationally. Hogan recently attended a Volvo training program in California, along with technicians at other Volvo dealerships from around the country. He mentioned the union campaign to other technicians, who listened with interest. Most didn’t realize unionizing was something they could do.