Paul Elder takes office as UA 290 business manager after election challenge denied


Paul Elder took office Feb. 12 as business manager of United Association of Plumbers and Steamfitters (UA) Local 290 after an election appeal by former business manager Joe Neely was rejected.

Elder outpolled Neely and three other candidates for business manager in votes tallied Dec. 18. He was set to be installed in January, but Neely filed an election challenge, and under UA rules that had to be resolved first. 

Paul Elder

Neely’s challenge was chiefly that Elder posted campaign messages on Facebook during work time. If true, that would run afoul of UA election rules that are meant to prevent employers from having influence in union officer elections by allowing workers to campaign on paid time. But John Kierce, the UA international representative who investigated, found that the allegations were without merit, and that the posting took place on Elder’s days off and during breaks. Neely appealed Kierce’s finding to UA General President Mark McManus, and McManus denied the appeal.

Elder joined Local 290 in 1996 and has been active as a benefit trustee, training center instructor, and contract bargaining team participant. For the last 20 years he’s worked in the construction of semiconductor manufacturing facilities. Now he’ll lead a dozen and a half staff members serving more than 5,000 plumbers, pipefitters, and HVAC specialists in Oregon, Southwest Washington, and Northern California. 

In his first week as business manager, Elder hired seven new staff, filling a vacancy and replacing six others he let go. That’s happened before during leadership transitions at Local 290: Newly installed business managers get to pick their own team, and union business agents who don’t stay on typically return to work as journeymen plumbers and pipefitters.

Elder named James King as assistant business manager. As business agents, he hired Travis Argue (east side), Doug Padie (west side), Pat Christensen (multi-craft units), Brad Archuleta (Salem), Bryan Oguri (Medford), and Matt Ziesak (Northern California). Christensen and Argue worked as union business agents previously; the others will head to UA national headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland, this month for training. The staff who were let go were Neely’s assistant business manager Randall Friesen and business agents Ashley Haysom, Nichet Newsome, Sean O’Rourke, Ramon Ramon, and Drew Waits. Business agent John Kimberling left before Elder took office.

Elder said he assigned Christensen to handle units that were represented by Newsome and O’Rourke. That freed up funds to hire a business agent to cover Northern California, which hasn’t had a local union rep in recent years. Construction work is set to boom in the Eureka area in the coming years, thanks in part to a $458 million expansion of California State Polytechnic University Humboldt in Arcata, California.

On Feb. 25, Elder attended a weeklong training for business managers at the UA international headquarters in Annapolis, Maryland. 

Neely — in a conciliatory message on his campaign website — said it was a profound honor to serve the local.

“As I step back, I urge the entire Local 290 membership to rally behind our newly elected officers and appointed union representatives. We’ve all been the new person at some point; let’s support each other in reaching new heights.”


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