Union Pride: IBEW Local 48 hall gets a major overhaul


A top-to-bottom remodel of IBEW Local 48’s union hall is in the final stages of completion. Located at 15937 NE Airport Way, Portland, next to the NECA-IBEW Electrical Training Center, the 15,800-square-foot complex includes a meeting hall, dispatch hall, conference room, and staff offices.

First opened in 1998, Local 48’s hall hadn’t had any kind of facelift in a dozen years, and was starting to show its age, with stains and wear on the carpet. With jurisdiction all over Northwest Oregon and Southwest Washington, Local 48 runs remote video feed from its Longview hall and a Grange hall in Aloha to make it easier for members to attend meetings. So when the main hall’s AV system failed half way through the first post-COVID general membership meeting, Local 48 leaders decided it was time for a renewal. 

Local 48 political director Marshall McGrady — who had project manager experience from having worked a dozen years as a general foreman — was put in charge of getting input and overseeing the remodel. After a year and a half of planning, work started last fall, and users returned to the building this spring. 

Marshall McGrady describes the skill it took union sheet metal workers to produce a cut-copper logo that hangs outside the revamped board room.

The heart of the overhaul was a revamped 300-seat meeting hall with state-of-the-art AV systems installed by Cochran Electric. Lining the walls are large-scale photos of Local 48 members on the job. Right now that includes members working at the Portland International Airport, Benson High School, Sherwood wastewater treatment plant, and PeaceHealth. But the plan is to send photographer Ben Friedle out once a year to job sites to get a new batch of images — and present the old ones to the members who are pictured. The main hall also has a much-improved adjacent kitchen area to make it easy to serve food and beverages at union events.

Another outstanding feature is a reconfigured boardroom: A sheet rock wall was replaced with a soundproofed glass wall that can turn opaque white for privacy with the flip of a switch. The board room is where the union’s executive board meets, but it’s also a place to hold political candidate interviews and negotiate collective bargaining agreements with employers. Guests entering the room pass by a beautiful cut-copper version of Local 48’s fist-and-lighting-bolt logo, built by members of Sheet Metal Local 16. 

One of a handful of mural-like images in the dispatch lobby is meant to inspire and promote union virtues.

Meanwhile, the dispatch hall, where members come to sign up for work, features inspiring mural-like images showcasing union virtues like diversity, patriotism, and solidarity. It also sports a high-definition monitor rotating through hundreds of pictures of members at work.

“Somebody that has never been an electrician, they come into the building and get to see what running PVC pipe or MC cable looks like,” McGrady said, “things that our folks do every single day.”

And that’s not all. The hall has a new roof. Restrooms were reconfigured to add an all-gender option. Interiors got more modern-looking carpet, installed as carpet tiles to make it less costly to replace when stains happen. And outside the hall, all new electric vehicle charging stations were added; previously installed stations had been damaged when thieves took cables for their copper, but Local 48 has since improved security and is now surrounded by a high gate. 

And all the work was done union, or at union scale — for the one job that had no union, furniture installers, the local insisted on paying prevailing wage.

Local 48 frequently lends use of its hall to other labor organizations, and feedback about the remodel from members and guests has been overwhelmingly positive.

More than a makeover, the remodel makes the hall a welcoming and more functional space — a showcase of union talent, and an investment in the local’s future.

The revamped board room


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