What do airport workers want? Raises that beat inflation

FAIR CONTRACT MEANS FAIR RAISES Laborers Local 483 members Leo Hernandez (left) and Kelly Paulson were among more than 40 airport workers to picket the Portland International Airport Nov. 22. IBEW Local 48 and Laborers Local 483 represent about 95 airport maintenance workers, and their most recent contract expired June 30. | PHOTO BY CELINA FLORES

By DON McINTOSH

Pickets went up at the Portland International Airport Nov. 22 as workers who maintain tens of millions of dollars of equipment grow tired of working without raises. IBEW Local 48 and Laborers Local 483 bargain jointly with the Port of Portland, which runs the airport, and the most recent contract covering 94 airport workers expired June 30. They’ve been meeting with management to bargain a new contract since April, but progress has slowed, and differences over wages in particular are preventing agreement. Members are very aware that inflation has eroded their earnings, and the fact that similar union workers in the private sector are getting significant raises.

“I think we’re having a little difficulty getting the Port to appreciate the extent to which inflation has damaged our members’ financial wellbeing, and the importance of making them whole,” said Local 483 field representative Dashiell Harrison.

The 39 electrical workers at the airport repair and maintain everything from airfield and terminal lighting to bag conveyor belts, and from ticket machines to parking gates and HVAC systems. The 45 laborers are responsible for building and vehicle maintenance, baggage handling equipment, and landscaping. 

No further negotiation sessions are set. Under the Oregon law governing public employee unions, the next step would be mediation if there’s no agreement.  

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