By COLIN STAUB
In the face of an anti-union push from Portland’s Pierce-Pacific Manufacturing, Machinists Local Lodge 1005 and District Lodge W24 are reminding members there of the benefits of union representation.
On Aug. 30, a Pierce-Pacific worker filed a decertification petition with the National Labor Relations Board (NLRB), with assistance from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation. The petition asks the federal agency to hold an election to see if workers there still want to be union-represented. But the petition came on the heels of an unfair labor practice charge that the Machinists filed, alleging that the company had refused to bargain and was trying to coerce workers into opposing the union. Under NLRB rules, the election can’t go forward until the unfair labor charges against the employer are adjudicated.
Pierce-Pacific workers voted to affiliate with the Machinists roughly 40 years ago. The union currently represents 54 workers at the facility. Will Lukens, business representative for District Lodge W24, says the company hasn’t historically fought the union. And the last contract the Machinists negotiated three years ago was their best yet at Pierce Pacific, Lukens said.
But since then, Pierce Pacific brought in a handful of new executives, including one manager who used to work for Portland-based Precision Castparts, a noted anti-union company that also recently ran a decertification campaign against the Machinists. Ever since, Pierce Pacific management has been setting the stage for removing the union.
As the Machinists prepared to enter bargaining over the summer, a manager circulated a petition and began promising benefits that would come if workers rejected the union, Lukens said. The manager used the workers’ payments into the Automotive Machinist Pension Trust rehab fund as a selling point: They would get that money back if they decertified, the manager said. Of course, workers would also lose the guarantees that come with a union contract. They’d be at-will employees. And if a majority votes to leave the union, any worker with less than five years service will lose the benefit of all the employer pension contributions made on their behalf.
Union supporters picketed outside Pierce Pacific on Sept. 16, sharing fliers with workers during shift change and drawing honks and waves from passing cars, delivery trucks and buses.
Ballots for the decertification election will be mailed at the end of October and counted Nov. 22, but the election is currently listed as “blocked” due to the outstanding unfair labor practice charge. That means the election will proceed, but ballots won’t be counted until the charge is resolved.