Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

June 20, 1997

WILLIAM R. PERRIN, longtime paper industry unionist, has been selected for Oregon Labor's Hall of Fame by the sponsoring Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council.

The retiree group, affiliated with the Portland-based Northwest Oregon Labor Council, AFL-CIO, established the Hall of Fame to salute the accomplishments of retired labor movement activists.

Bill Perrin, of Lake Oswego, was a founder and first president of the Association of Western Pulp and Paper Workers (AWPPW). The AWPPW was formed in 1964 in a rebellion by local union leaders in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska against two international unions -- the International Brotherhood of Pulp, Sulphite and Paper Mill Workers and the United Papermakers and Paperworkers.

A few years after the revolt, the two AFL-CIO affiliates merged to form the United Paperworkers International Union.The AWPPW, after three decades as an independent, non-affiliated union, last year joined the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, AFL-CIO.

THE REVOLT of West Coast locals occurred in the spring of 1964 when the internationals elbowed aside delegates from local unions and took over regional contract bargaining with paper industry management. The negotiations were conducted in a goldfish-bowl setting in the cavernous hall of Portland's Masonic Temple. Local union delegates walked out in protest of what they considered to be a high-handed power-grab by the internationals.

The protesters created a new union, the AWPPW. An intensive bargaining-rights battle ensued in Oregon, Washington, California and Alaska with the upstart AWPPW pitted against the two internationals.When the paper industry workers' ballots were counted in a National Labor Relations Board representation election in September 1964, the AWPPW had carved out a bargaining unit of 47 locals with 24,000 members working for 20 forest products companies up and down the Pacific Coast.

The AWPPW prided itself on being a democratic labor union answerable to the rank-and-file dues-paying mill workers. It drafted and adopted a constitution and bylaws based on that idealistic principle.

The independent AWPPW, given the cold shoulder of non-recognition by the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations, encountered difficulty in negotiating a first contract with the paper mill owners. In a recent interview with the Northwest Labor Press, Perrin, now 87, recalled how the powerful International Brotherhood of Teamsters (IBT), then also an independent union, exerted its considerable muscle to help the fledgling AWPPW.

A KEY FIGURE in lining up the Teamsters' support was Clyde Crosby of Portland, an IBT international representative. Two decades earlier, Perrin, an electrician at Crown Zellerbach's West Linn paper mill, and Crosby, a truck driver employed in Oregon City, teamed up to win election to the top posts in the Clackamas County Labor Council. Crosby was elected president and Perrin secretary-treasurer.

When the AWPPW ran into trouble with management in negotiating a first contract, Crosby introduced his old friend Perrin to the then IBT president, the legendary James R. Hoffa, at IBT headquarters in Washington, D.C. Perrin was in the nation's capital at the request of the secretary of labor to engage in contract negotiations under the auspices of federal mediation.

HOFFA GREETED PERRIN warmly and subsequently asked the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service to give the stalled AWPPW negotiations a top priority. Paper industry executives soon realized that the Teamsters might stop deliveries to their mills if the AWPPW was forced to put up a picket line.

Looking back on those tense days, Perrin expressed gratitude for the union brotherhood and solidarity extended to him by Hoffa. Perrin told the Northwest Labor Press: "We never could have gotten a contract except for Jimmy Hoffa's power."

A power struggle within the AWPPW resulted in Perrin being defeated in the Portland-headquartered union's 1967 election. The founding president, after serving one three-year term, picked up his electrician's tools and returned to work at the West Linn mill where he had first started in 1936. He retired from the mill in 1974.

Bill Perrin has lived in the Lake Oswego area of Clackamas County most of his life except for U.S. Army infantry service in World War II. He was born in Syracuse, N.Y., but his family left there when he was four years old and settled in Oregon after checking out California. His father, a railroad fireman and dedicated union member, took up farming in Oregon and operated the Catholic Dominican Fathers' farm near Marylhurst.

YOUNG BILL HAD DREAMS of becoming a newspaper sportswriter but such jobs were scarce when he graduated in 1933, in the Great Depression, from what's now Oregon State University. After working on the farm with his father for several years, Bill landed a job at the Crown Zellerbach paper mill in nearby West Linn in 1936. He was assigned as a helper in the electrical department and began a training program that eventually qualified him as an electrician.

Over the years he served as president of his Pulp, Sulphite Local 68 (which now is AWPPW #68); as secretary-treasurer and president of the Clackamas County Labor Council (now part of the Northwest Oregon Labor Council), and as an executive board member of the state federation of labor. He also held the chairmanship of the important Resolutions Committee at state labor federation conventions. He helped guide the Labor Press as a member of its board of directors from the late 1950s to the mid-1960s.

UPON RETIRING in 1974, Perrin became active in the American Association of Retired Persons and the Oregon Council of Senior Citizens, lobbying on seniors' issues at the Oregon Legislature in Salem. Currently, he's a member of the Oregon Medical Peer Review Organization, which monitors the Medicare program.

Perrin has two sons, Bill, a construction project manager based in London, and John, a lawyer in Colorado Springs, and six grandchildren. His wife LaVeve, a high school teacher for many years, died in 1993. Looking back on the 1964 revolt and the national AFL-CIO's rejection of the AWPPW's request for affiliation, Perrin commented: "George Meany (then AFL-CIO president) threw me out of the house of labor but I never left the community of labor." He recalled that he cooperated with the AFL-CIO timber unions, which bargain with many of the same employers the AWPPW deals with, and also maintained a working relationship with other unions.


RICHARD CARMINE LA MANNA SR., retired financial secretary of Oregon City Carpenters Local 1388, died May 25 at age 86 of congestive heart failure.

Born March 15, 1911 in New York state, he moved to the Portland area in 1942.

Active in the United Brotherhood of Carpenters, he was elected financial secretary of Local 1388 in 1969 and led the union until his retirement in 1982. The union's building was named LaManna Hall in his honor. He served on the Oregon AFL-CIO Executive Board.

A private Catholic Rosary service was held for him with arrangements by the Wilhelm Funeral Home of southeast Portland. Interment was in Mt. Calvary Cemetery.

Survivors include his wife of 60 years, Clementina; a son, Richard of Redding, Calif.; a granddaughter, Lisa Tillisch, also of Redding; a grandson, Chris, of Sacramento; a grandson, Rick, of Tempe, Ariz.; and one great-grandchild.


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