Let me say this about that

By Gene Klare

December 21, 2001

ROBERT F. SCARRIOFFINI, 68, retired secretary-treasurer of School Employees Local 140, has entered the Northwest Oregon Labor Retirees Council's Labor Hall of Fame.

The retirees voted in Scarrioffini at a meeting in the Northwest Oregon Labor Council's boardroom at 1125 SE Madison St., Portland. He was honored for his three decades of service to Local 140, whose members are employed as cafeteria workers and as custodians for the Portland School District. Local 140 is an affiliate of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which is affiliated with the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO).

Scarrioffini, who started as a custodian for Portland Public Schools in 1964, pointed out to the Northwest Labor Press that a custodian's job involves much more than the janitorial duties of cleaning the school buildings. "We are responsible for everything," he said, which includes operating and maintaining the heating plants in the schools, and keeping the buildings safe.

Custodians have been called on to search schools for bombs in response to telephoned threats. He noted, too, that the SEIU made drug-prevention movies to educate its members about narcotics and show them how to safely clean up needles discarded near schools by drug users.

IN ADDITION to his regular duties, Scarrioffini was assigned the responsibility of being a fire extinguisher inspector and he trained teachers and other employees in the use of the fire-fighting devices.

The danger that could befall a custodian was grimly illustrated by the never-solved murder of a custodian at Sunnyside Elementary School, 342 l SE Salmon St., who was robbed and fatally stabbed while working outside the school at daybreak over a decade ago.

Scarrioffini, the new Hall of Famer, worked as head custodian at Grout Elementary School, 3119 SE Holgate Blvd., and at Roosevelt High School, 69l4 N. Central St., and also was a custodian at Jason Lee Elementary School, 2222 SE 92nd Ave., and Irvington Elementary School, 1320 NE Brazee St.

IN HIS 13 YEARS at Grout, Scarrioffini conducted fishing classes for students because many did not have fathers at home to teach them. He had as many as two dozen boys and girls in his classes. He taught the children how to tie hooks to fishing lines and how to tie up for winter steelhead fishing. He took them fishing for crappie and bass in the Willamette River at Oaks Park near the Sellwood Bridge in southeast Portland. He also took pupils fishing in the trout pond at Mount Hood Community College in Gresham. Some parents helped with transporting the children to and from the fishing spots. He felt well rewarded when students who'd grown up would drop in at their old school and greet him warmly.

When he went to work for the Portland School District in 1964, Bob Scarrioffini joined SEIU School Employees Local 140 and began working his way up in the union. "Harold Weed was my mentor," he said, referring to the outstanding man who was then Local 140's president. Over the years, Scarrioffini held the offices of sergeant-at-arms, trustee, Executive Board member, vice president, president and secretary-treasurer. Bob became secretary-treasurer in 1987 upon the death of Ed Curtin, another outstanding leader of Local l 40. Scarrioffini also was a vice president of the SEIU's Oregon Service Council, comprised of Locals 49, 503 and 140. When he retired at age 60 after 30 years with the Portland Public Schools, he continued for five years as Local 140's secretary-treasurer.

In Local 140's peak years the union had nearly 900 members. But the membership has dropped to around 600 due to severe personnel cuts made by school district administrators.

SCARRIOFFINI WAS ACTIVE in political campaigns and in lobbying as an officer of Local l 40.

Candidates he worked for included labor-endorsed aspirants for the Portland School Board, U.S. Senator Mark Hatfield, Vice President Walter Mondale and U.S. Senator Ron Wyden. He lobbied members of Oregon's congressional delegation while in Washington, D.C., attending SEIU conferences. He also testified at federal environmental hearings in San Francisco to seek government grants to hire contractors to remove hazardous asbestos from Portland school buildings. He has conferred on behalf of Local 140 with national AFL-CIO Presidents John Sweeney and Lane Kirkland and Oregon Governor Vic Atiyeh. Sweeney formerly was SEIU's president.

Years ago Scarrioffini represented Local 140 on a committee that interviewed applicants for superintendent of the Portland School District and recommended the hiring of Matthew Prophet, who was one of the most able leaders in the district's history.

Since his retirement, Scarrioffini attends meetings of Local 140's retirees. He volunteers his time to help them obtain medication and provides transportation to medical appointments for those needing rides.

BOB WAS BORN in Torrington, Connecticut, on Aug. 3, 1933. Before he enlisted in the U.S. Navy, he picked tobacco, explaining that his home state's crop was mostly used for the outer wrappings of cigars like White Owl and Dutch Masters.

Scarrioffini served in the Navy in the Korean War years as a crew member on various ships in an anti-submarine squadron in the Atlantic Ocean and the Mediterranean Sea. When his ship was docked at Naples, Italy, he took a trip to Rome, where he received the blessing of Pope Pius XII. He was in London to witness the coronation of England's current queen.

Upon being honorably discharged from the Navy, Scarrioffini went to Los Angeles to see his mother, who had moved there to work for one of Howard Hughes's companies. He took a job in a brass factory but got fired while trying to organize his fellow workers into the Steelworkers Union. In 1957 he decided to move up the coast to Portland.

IN THE ROSE CITY, Scarrioffini worked at several occupations in the restaurant and delicatessen business. He tended bar, made sausage in an Italian deli and was a chef at the old Monte Carlo restaurant. He was a member of Bartenders Local 496. After seven years in those jobs, he made a career move and went to work as a school custodian.

Bob has a daughter, Cheryl Bonner, a member of United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555 who works at a Fred Meyer supermarket in St. Helens, where her husband, Brian Bonner, is a foreman in a pallet factory. The Bonners have a nine-year-old daughter, Alexandria. Bob's wife, the former Jackie Dunn, has a son, Edward James, who is an actor, director and producer at Sylvia's Italian Restaurant & Class Act Dinner Theater on Northeast Sandy Boulevard. Mrs. Scarrioffini had another son, William Height, who died at age 37 five years ago. In her working years, Jackie Scarrioffini belonged to Waitresses Local 305.

The Scarrioffinis belong to St. Therese Catholic Church, 1260 NE 132nd Ave., and Bob also is active in the Knights of Columbus and the American Legion.


THERE IS STILL TIME to put a check in the mail before Christmas for the Carpenters Food Bank, which helps needy members of all unions plus other hard-pressed workers and retirees who need food boxes to feed themselves and their families. The Food Bank operates in the basement of the Carpenters Local 247 Building at 2205 N. Lombard Street on the corner of Brandon Avenue in Portland. The stairway to the basement can be reached through a back door of Local 247's hall.

"Last month we served over 1,800 individuals," reported Mike and Sandy Fahey, who manage the Food Bank.

Mail contributions to Carpenters Food Bank, P.O. Box 17358, Portland OR 97217.


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