By COLIN STAUB
A dozen workers who paint commercial vessels on Swan Island in Portland have unionized, increasing the union density at the Vigor Industrial shipyard.
They work for Specialty Finishes, a company that’s affiliated with Vigor, and do ship repairs alongside the union-represented Vigor workers who bargain together in the AFL-CIO Metal Trades Department. In ballots counted Aug. 9, the Specialty Finishes workers voted 8 to 1 to join Painters Local 10.
The Specialty Finishes painters will bargain separately from the Metal Trades Department. Painters Local 10 Business Representative Scott Oldham expects bargaining toward a first contract could begin in four to six weeks.
In a release announcing the vote, Specialty Finishes painter David Warnieke said workers anticipate that unionizing will bring wage increases, family medical coverage, and workplace protections.
Workers currently make between $22 and $27 per hour, Oldham said, while their union counterparts at Vigor make between $28 and $36.
The Portland shop could be the first of multiple unionized Speciality Finishes locations. On Aug. 3, workers at a Seattle Specialty Finishes asked the NLRB to hold a union election. Like the Portland shop, it’s connected to a Vigor shipyard and the bargaining unit would include 12 painters. They would be represented by Painters Local 300.
There’s also recent union organizing at Vigor itself: Workers at the company’s Fairbanks, Alaska shipyard voted 26-19 to affiliate with the International Association of Sheet Metal, Air, Rail, and Transportation Workers, Local 23, in ballots counted June 29. That bargaining unit includes 57 shipyard workers who build and repair vessels.