Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

April 5, 2002

KEITH JONS of Damascus, a retired official of United Food and Commercial Workers Union (UFCW) Local 555, has entered Labor's Hall of Fame on a door-opening vote by the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council in Portland.

The Portland-based council of retired union members started the Hall of Fame in 1997 as a way of honoring older workers for the contributions they've made to the labor movement.

The retirees meet monthly under the auspices of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, at NOLC's boardroom in its office suite at 1125 SE Madison St. Marv Kelso of the Machinists is president of the retirees and Harold King of the Association of Pulp and Paper Workers is secretary-treasurer.

JONS, NOW 71, retired in December 1988 from the post of director of collective bargaining for the Tigard-headquartered union's meat, seafood and poultry division. He was in charge of negotiating nearly 300 contracts with employers. He had held the position since the formation of Local 555 in September 1985. Before that he was the executive officer of UFCW Local Ten-Eleven, based in Clackamas, which was formed by a merger of two Portland local unions, Butchers #656 and Egg and Poultry #231, and Eugene-Salem Meat Cutters #324. Local Ten-Eleven was created in July 1980 after the 1979 merger of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen's International Union, based in Chicago, with the Retail Clerks International Association, of Washington, D.C., to form the UFCW.

UFCW Local 555 was established by merging Portland Food and Drug Clerks Local 1092, Portland Meat Cutters Local 143, Local Ten-Eleven and allied locals in Oregon and southwest Washington, plus locals representing barbers, beauticians, boot and shoe workers, insurance salesmen and other occupations. Local 555, which has its main offices in Tigard, southwest of Portland, has 18,000 members, making it the largest private sector local of non-seasonal workers in the Northwest. Jons played a key role in working out the complex details of the 1985 structuring of Local 555.

KEITH WAYNE JONS was born in Denver on Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, 1931, and lived on a ranch in the sand hills of western Nebraska where the winters are long and rough. He rode one of his father's horses bareback the mile and a half to school. The family lived there until Keith was 13 and then moved to Kennewick in eastern Washington. At age 15 while still in Kennewick High School, he took a part-time job in a slaughterhouse and later worked in a meat market. In both jobs he belonged to locals of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters and Butcher Workmen's International Union. After high school he joined the United States Army, serving from 1948-52, and then returned to the Tri-Cities area of Kennewick-Pasco-Richland, and found a job at Pasco Meat Packers, rejoining the Amalgamated. Keith and his wife, Marjorie, were married on Valentine's Day of 1953.

After eight years at the Pasco meat plant, Jons moved his family to Portland, where he took and passed the pre-employment tests for a job as a federal meat grader. However, he did not accept a federal appointment because the only opening at that time, in 1961, was in Los Angeles and he and his wife didn't want to move their family of three children so far from the Northwest. He was hired at a retail store, the old Central Market in Portland, and joined Meat Cutters Local 143, affiliated with the Amalgamated.

AFTER FIVE YEARS in the retail store job, Jons returned to the wholesale side of the meat industry in 1966, catching on at Associated Meat Packers, owned by the Del Monte Company, on Northeast Columbia Boulevard. There he joined Butchers Local 656 on North Interstate Avenue and became active in the Amalgamated local. In the next several years he worked at various other packing plants - including Coast, Brander's and Pacific - in the then thriving slaughterhouse and packing industry situated in Portland's north end. He often worked day shifts at one plant and night shifts at another, hewing to the regimen of hard work and no indebtedness instilled in him by his father.

Jons began his 15-year career as a full-time union leader on Jan. 23, 1974 when he took over as secretary-treasurer of Local 656, following his election the month before. In 1976 he assumed the additional duties of the presidency of the Oregon Federation of Butchers. Recognizing his abilities as a local union leader - negotiating and enforcing contracts, settling grievances and handling many other duties - the Chicago-based Amalgamated in 1977 selected him as a member of its union-wide negotiating committee to bargain labor contracts with the big meat packing companies in the United States and Canada. The international negotiating assignment was, of course, in addition to his local union responsibilities. He continued on the industry-wide bargaining committee until 1985.

IN HIS UNION career, Jons attended central labor council meetings in Portland, Eugene-Springfield, Coos Bay, Grants Pass and Salem. He served as a trustee of pension and health and welfare trust funds. He was a delegate to conventions of the Amalgamated Meat Cutters, the UFCW and the Oregon AFL-CIO. He also devoted many years of service on the Board of Directors of the Oregon Labor Press Publishing Company, the labor-owned non-profit publisher of the Northwest Labor Press.

He shook hands with U.S. President Jimmy Carter at the 1979 merger convention that marked the formation of the United Food and Commercial Workers Union in Washington, D.C. President Carter was a special guest.

Jons recalls occasions of controversy and near-violence in the 1 970s when roving anti-union groups created disruptions at local union meetings.

FOR A TIME after his retirement Jons raised dogs and horses on the 11-acre spread near Damascus where he and his wife Marjorie make their home. He also operated tractors doing contract tilling and mowing work for some of his neighbors.

Fishing and hunting were favorite pastimes in his younger years. He still plays an occasional round of golf, but now he spends most of his time restoring vintage automobiles, specializing in 1960s-era Ford convertibles.

KEITH AND MARJORIE have two daughters, a son and six grandchildren. Cheri, who works at the NW Labor Press, is a member of Office and Professional Employees International Union Local 1 l . Kristi used to be employed at the Machinists District 24 office. Keith Jr., now in a management job, formerly worked as a Machinist.


ROY L. HILLER of Portland, a longtime member of Auto Mechanics Mount Hood Lodge 1005 of the International Association of Machinists, passed away Nov. 1, 2001, his daughter told the Labor Press.

Janet Chaney, his daughter, said her father "retired from Braley & Graham as a body and fender man about 1972 after decades there. Earlier as a young man he worked at the cooperage in north Portland, the Camas paper mill, and as a welder."

She added that "he was a strong and outspoken union man all his life and was a very hard worker."


DALE A. HENDERSON, a past president of Portland Federation of Teachers Local 111, died of cancer at age 78 on Feb. 6 in Gresham. He headed the union from 1959 to 1961 and taught social studies at Cleveland High School for 38 years until his retirement in 1987.


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