By MALLORY GRUBEN
For the second time in a row, Painters Local 10 obtained a contract with historic pay raises for members in the Portland metro area.
On May 4, union members approved an agreement with Oregon Signatory Painting Contractors Organization (SPCO) that raises total compensation $9.66 over three years. Painters District Council 5 representative Scott Oldham said that’s the largest pay bump the local has ever seen.
“A great portion of our members are extremely excited,” Oldham said. “We were used to getting $3.16 over three years, and we got $3.66 in year one.”
The agreement covers roughly 320 commercial, industrial, and bridge painters working for the 10 contractors that make up SPCO.
Journeyman commercial painters were making $30.72 an hour; that will rise to $33.50, retroactive to April 1. Starting July 1, employers will also pay 88 cents more per hour toward benefits, for a total increase of $3.66. Years two and three both provide a $3 an hour increase: $2.12 in wages April 1, and 88 cents in benefits effective July 1.
Wages for industrial painters employed by SPCO members will rise from $32.52 to $35.30 an hour this year, $37.42 next April, and $39.54 on April 1, 2025. Bridge painters will see pay grow from $38.19 an hour to $40.97 this year, $43.09 next April, and $45.21 on April 1, 2025. Both groups will also get an annual increase of 88 cents an hour toward benefits, effective each year on July 1.
Oldham said the contract “continues a winning trajectory to meet or match other trades.” For several years, painters lost ground to inflation and fell behind all other construction trades. And prior to 2018, Local 10 couldn’t strike for leverage in negotiations, because previous contracts had outlined an arbitration process to resolve an impasse instead.
In 2021 — the first contract negotiations after Local 10 regained the right to strike — painters held a series of unfair labor practice strikes that shut down job sites across the Portland metro area. They threatened to escalate into a “summer of chaos” until contractors agreed to significant catch-up raises that provided the biggest wage boost in a generation.
This year, painters overwhelmingly authorized a full economic strike and planned to walk out May 1. The strike was temporarily suspended so members could vote on a last-minute offer from SPCO. Almost 70% of the members covered by the contract participated in the ratification vote, one of the highest participation rates the unit has seen, Oldham said.
“A lot of (members) feel like having the ability to strike has given hope to the industry,” Oldham said. “It feels like it’s once again a career path…. This (contract) gives us the ability to recruit new people and retain them.”