IBEW tree trimmer talks heat up


After nine months of bargaining without agreement on wages and benefits, tree trimmers represented by IBEW Local 125 have terminated their contract with a group of employers, paving the way for escalating action.

IBEW represents about 430 tree trimmers who maintain clearance around electrical lines all over Oregon and southwest Washington. Their employers, Asplundh Tree Experts, Wright Tree Service, Trees Inc. and DJ’s Electrical, bargain together. Negotiations on a new contract started in October, and the previous contract term ended in December, although the contract provisions remained active through negotiations.

In March, workers voted by 98% to reject a tentative agreement that provided a 2.75% wage increase for 2022, about $0.65 an hour. Then, the employers presented their final offer with slightly higher raises. Members rejected that offer by a 90% vote on May 26. With negotiations at an impasse, the bargaining team recently terminated the contract.

“This was a difficult decision by our members which rarely happens,” Local 125 said in announcing the termination. “The failure of the contractors to offer a fair wage and benefit package forced them to take this very drastic step.”

Tommy Lux, business agent for Local 125, said the last time the tree trimmer negotiations reached this point was in 2006. 

The union and employers will meet with federal mediators on July 21, with four more sessions planned for August. If that doesn’t bring them to an agreement, informational picketing or a possible strike could be next steps.

Entry-level tree trimmers currently make $23.47 per hour, and Local 125 says that’s just not competitive with other apprenticeship-required trades.

“We must have substantial increases in both wages and benefits to attract new workers into the [line clearance tree trimming] industry which will help keep them in this critical classification,” Local 125 wrote.


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