Industrial Carpenters See Positive Changes in 2020
Nearly 4,000 industrial members of the NW Carpenters Union went to the bargaining table with their employers during 2020. Despite COVID-19, or perhaps because of it, the wood products industry experienced unprecedented growth and profits, with some companies showing 100%+ returns in the last six months.
Our industrial units include Roseburg Forest Products, with about 2,000 union members; Boise Cascade in Woodinville, Elgin & Kettle Falls, Washington; Woodgrain in La Grande, Oregon; Simpson Door in McCleary, Washington; JH Baxter and Rosboro in Eugene; and Alta Forest Products in Washington; and Arbor Health in Morton, Washington, our Council’s only represented health care workers.
We began preparing for Contract 2020 in 2019, getting surveys out to members and visiting worksites so that all members could participate and have their voices heard. Our bargaining teams met for the first time with the Contracts Administration Department in mid-February and we began planning for bargaining.
March was a lost month as uncertainty around COVID-19 escalated. We proposed one-year contract extensions to several employers, believing that it would be better to get through 2020 then regroup. Simpson Door and Arbor Health members at the Lewis County Hospital both approved one-year extensions in May, but other employers wanted to negotiate, so bargaining really began as the contracts expired at the end of May.
Workers at Woodgrain were the first to ratify their contract on July 16, 2020, winning their first union contract with the company, a national wood products producer that recently purchased the plant from Boise Cascade. Alta Forest Products followed with a ratification vote on August 11, 2020.
At Simpson Door in McLeary, Washington, Local 2761’s rank and file bargaining committee members President Vincelle Calica, Orion Prim, Robin Cristilli, Nicole Simmons, Darryll Larson, Council Representative Ray Calica and Contract Administration Representative Jeff Thorson met with Simpson Door management from February through May 2020. After much discussion the teams reached a tentative agreement to extend for one year and move the anniversary date to June 30 to better align with other industry contracts. The electronic vote ratification process (the first time used at this facility) went to the membership and ended on May 28, 2020.
Electronic elections and contract votes have become the norm over the last five years in the Northwest Council, but they are new to our industrial members who have voted on contracts at the fairgrounds or community center for many decades.
Roseburg Forest Products
After five months of bargaining, Roseburg Forest Products bargaining team, Local 2949 President Ralph Moore, Local 2784 President Sid Walter, Plant Committee chairs, and Council staff reached a tentative agreement, which was ratified by a vote of the membership for a four-year agreement on October 26, 2020.
Rosboro Lumber’s Local 2750 rank and file members Bret Cooper and Dave Blake, Industrial Representative Todd Gorham and Contract Administration Representative Scott Schaefer met with Rosboro Lumber Products management on many occasions beginning in mid-June and ratified the four-year agreement on November 2, 2020.
Boise Cascade reached agreement for a four-year contract on November 9, 2020 with voting through November 13, 2020 for the Kettle Falls and Elgin Logyards and the Elgin Plywood plant. Woodinville distribution center agreed to a one-year extension.
Most of our industrial units have health insurance through the joint labor/management Bledsoe Health Trust, founded in 1959 and named after UBC Industrial Organizer James Bledsoe. The Trust is currently in good standing, with nearly two years of reserves, so health insurance cost concessions weren’t pushed by employers.
Some of our industrial members have lost or frozen their pensions in recent contracts, and we are hopeful that in future contracts we may be able to regain access to a pension for these members. Rosboro is the first industrial unit to begin contributing to the OR/SWWA 401k, which is a step towards gaining the full retirement benefits available to construction carpenters.
Several industrial units are still in negotiations, including Truax Building Supply, JH Baxter, and Wells Cabinets; and the Pacific Rim, Columbia River and Mountain Western Log Scalers locals all begin negotiations in early 2021, along with more than 50 construction agreements.
A lot of hard work went into these contracts, both by the Contract Administration Department staff, including Jeff Thorson, Scott Schaefer, Dan Hutchins, Mario Martinez, Chris Lambert and Brian Eaton, and industrial Representatives Todd Gorham, Ray Calica, Brian Oelberg, Paul Cloer and also by our dedicated local union officers, stewards, and union bargaining committees. When we pull together, we can win solid gains for our members.