By DON McINTOSH
Three days after voting down a company contract offer, workers at a Northwest Portland roof shingle factory walked out and shut it down.
“If we take a 5% raise, we’re taking a pay cut,” said striking millwright Rich Hobert.
CertainTeed Roofing, a subsidiary of French multinational Saint-Gobain, told Laborers Local 737 that its final offer was a three year contract with annual raises of 5%, 2.5%, and 2.5%. Coming from a profitable company not long after inflation peaked at 9%, that was practically an insult.
“All that did was piss off my membership,” said Local 737 representative Rick Ohmie.
With less than two days notice, 43 of the unit’s 57 members met Feb. 19 to discuss the offer, and all 43 voted to reject it.
“Nobody here really wanted to strike, but this is what they forced us to do,” said Joe DiGrazia, who’s worked at the plant since 1988. DiGrazia said most workers at the plant put in 12-hour shifts five days a week, pouring asphalt into a fiberglass mesh to create roof shingles. Now the company wants them to agree to 13-1 schedules—13 twelve-hour days in a row, followed by one day off. Picket signs are their answer to that.
Outside the plant at 6350 NW Front Ave., picketing has been under way since the strike began Feb. 22. The plant sits across the street from the Kinder Morgan gasoline depot in a narrow industrial strip between the Willamette River and the tree-covered hills of Forest Park. Passing vehicles honk support, and trucks have declined to cross.
Workers at the Portland CertainTeed plant last struck in 2013, and the company backed down from its proposal to exit the union health plan after one day. This time, workers were still on strike six days in. Local 737 is encouraging community support: Visit the picket line 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday, and bring firewood for the burn barrels or food and beverages to share.
[More photos from Day 1 of the strike here.]