Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

May 18, 2001

ROBERT L. STANFILL, 77, a 55-year member of Portland-based Plasterers Local 82, rates a standing ovation as the newest honoree in Labor's Hall of Fame sponsored by the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council.

Stanfill retired in 1984 after 16 years as executive secretary-treasurer of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council, AFL-CIO.

THE PORTLAND-BORN Stanfill began his labor union career in 1946 after World War II service in the U.S. Army Air Corps, which later became the U.S. Air Force. He used his Federal GI Bill benefits to enroll in Local 82's plastering apprenticeship program. Stanfill remembered that his starting pay was 65 cents per hour, which added up to $5.20 per day.

"I worked on many construction projects, including the University of Oregon's Medical and Dental Schools and several other colleges and also some banks," he told the Northwest Labor Press. The med and dental schools on southwest Portland's "Pill Hill" were later renamed the Oregon Health Sciences University.

Stanfill was elected business agent and financial secretary of Plasterers Local 82 in April l956. "I helped negotiate and start the health and welfare plan in the same year, the vacation plan in 1958, and the pension plan in 1962," Stanfill recalled. He went on to say:

"THIS YEAR IS my 40th year as a trustee on the pension plan, which is rated as one of the best for its size in the Pacific Northwest. In July of 1959 I formed the non-profit Plasterers and Lathers Administration Office, and it still exists after 42 years. We are the only local union that I know of that still administers its own trust funds."

As Local 82's business agent, Stanfill negotiated for his members the first downtown parking fringe benefit for Portland area workers. "They could park within six blocks of a downtown construction project and the employers would reimburse them for their parking fees," he said.

Stanfill was among the hundreds of delegates to the 1956 merger convention in Portland that produced the Oregon AFL-CIO. He thinks he's one of only two remaining delegates from the building trades to that historic convention.

IN JANUARY 1966 Stanfill was elected president of the Portland Building and Construction Trades Council to succeed Earl Kirkland, who was elected at the same time as executive secretary-treasurer of the council. That council's jurisdiction was soon expanded and it was renamed the Columbia-Pacific Building and Construction Trades Council. Stanfill served as its president or vice president for 18 years until his 1984 retirement.

Stanfill played an important role in the building of the federally-financed Union Manor retirement apartment complexes in Portland. He served as vice president of the sponsoring Union Labor Retirement Association, which built the Westmoreland, Marshall and Kirkland Union Manors that provide affordable apartments for hundreds of retired workers.

Stanfill's election as executive secretary-treasurer of the Oregon State Building and Construction Trades Council occurred in 1968. In the mid-1970s he was appointed by Governor Bob Straub to the first State Building Codes Advisory Board, which Stanfill said "was successful in establishing a statewide uniform building code for all cities and counties throughout the state."

"ONE OF THE HIGHLIGHTS of my career," Stanfill said, "was helping the Oregon AFL-CIO lobby the 1975 Oregon Legislature to enact improvements in unemployment insurance benefits and in injured workers' compensation. These changes increased benefits from 55 percent to 66 2/3rds percent of the average weekly wage. This has provided thousands of dollars for unemployed and injured workers."

Another facet of Stanfill's career was serving from 1970 until 1984 as president and chairman of the United Labor Union Association, an employer group which negotiated the labor agreements with Office and Professional Employees International Union Local l l covering its members who performed clerical, bookkeeping and office managerial duties in Portland metro area labor organization offices.

Stanfill was born on Nov. 26, 1923 in the Rose City and grew up in southeast Portland in a family of eight sons and one daughter. His father, Bill, worked a six-day week as a grain miller for $17.55. After flour mill workers formed Grain Millers Local 61, Bob recalled "our standard of living improved" because the union negotiated a big pay raise for its members.

BOB GREW UP in a politically-divided home - his mother voted Republican and his father was a Democrat. Bob decided as a youngster he'd be a Democrat after reading in a newspaper about the passage of Social Security legislation "and not one single Republican in the Senate voted for it."

Discussing his own family, Stanfill said: "I have three daughters, Barbara Hess, Cheryl Hemingston, who is a butcher and a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, and Karen Bilyeu, who is a member of Local 11 and works in the Plasterers Local 82 office. I have seven grandkids, eight great-grandchildren and one on the way."

CONTINUING, HE SAID: "I married my wife, Pinky, in 1973 and I have three stepsons, Jeff Woods, who is a member of Plumbers and Fitters Local 290, John Petty and Bob Petty; and a stepdaughter, Laura Abernathy."

Bob and Pinky Stanfill spend their winters in Arizona and their summers in Oregon in a home alongside the Clackamas River. "My hobbies since retiring," Bob said, "are traveling and growing a very large garden."

He also said: "It is my hope that all union members can have as great a retirement as I've had as a result of being a member of organized labor."


DOES IT SEEM like several public agencies are giving away the store?

The Port of Portland sold its Swan Island shipyard at a bargain price and now the buyer, Cascade General, wants to sell Dry Dock 4, largest in the hemisphere, to pay off some of its indebtedness, and the Port okayed that. The Port is a public agency whose bosses are appointed by the governor, but it has for decades behaved like a private business with virtually no objections from the taxpayers.

Downtown at City Hall the mayor and commissioners gave a bunch of millionaires a sweetheart deal for Civic Stadium, which has been refurbished as PGE Park. Because the rich owners of Family Entertainment were paying only poverty-level wages to the ballpark's workers, the city decided to kick in enough money to raise their incomes to a so-called "living wage" level. Why didn't the mayor and her cohorts negotiate payment by the millionaires of a "living wage" to their workers as part of the stadium deal?

Meanwhile, at the Portland School District the board members were giving away their store to a superintendent hired a few years ago from out of state, allowing him to pay outrageous fees to a consultant who's a brother-in-law of a former interim superintendent, and also letting him outfit a former assistant with a platinum parachute.

It is hilarious that the Port's boss and a former school board chairman are now running for governor. What will they give away in Salem?


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