Machinists ratify new four-year contract at Ash Grove cement


Following just two days of negotiations, union machine maintenance workers at a cement quarry in Eastern Oregon on July 26 unanimously approved a four-year contract that creates a new worker training program and  provides a 14% raise overall.

Ash Grove is one of the largest cement producers in North America. It’s a subsidiary of Dublin-headquartered CRH, which owns nearly 3,100 building materials businesses in 29 countries. Machinists Local Lodge 63 represents 19 workers at the Durkee, Oregon, quarry who do general maintenance work on the quarry’s machines and vehicles. Durkee is an unincorporated city about 30 miles southeast of Baker City.

The contract was the first agreement negotiated by Machinists District Lodge W24 Business Representative Randy Lill, who started his new job in June 2022 after a nearly 30-year career at the Daimler Trucks North America truck plant in Portland. For six years, Lill served as the chief shop steward at Daimler.

Although Lill has been part of negotiations before, the Ash Grove contract was his first time leading a bargaining team. He joked that he sweated through his suit before he even got to the bargaining table, in part because it was 105 degrees in Boise, the city where the company asked to meet. But his instincts kicked in quickly, and discussions went smoothly.

“Everything my guys wanted, we basically got in there,” Lill said. “I’m pretty happy with it.”

On Aug. 1, starting wages rose 5% to $38.88 for a machinist lead, $37.17 for a machinist welder repairman, $35.56 for a plant oiler, and $32.91 for a shop repairman helper. Workers will receive a 3% raise annually in August through the contract’s expiration on July 31, 2027. The agreement includes an incentive package that provides up to $3 an hour extra for workers who get additional certifications, such as a crane operator’s certification. The contract also creates a pilot program that lets workers on the production line transfer for the maintenance department. Those workers will make 85% of the contracted wages as they complete their training for the maintenance jobs.

“They’re always looking for maintenance people, but it’s a really remote location. …  It’s hard to hire people out there,” Lill said. “So we brought in a new program where they can bring people on if they want to apply in-house.”

CORRECTION: An earlier version of this article said Ash Grove workers are represented by Machinists Lodge 1005; they’re members of  Lodge 63.


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