By Frank Lockwood

Staff writer

HERMISTON — The Industrial Company (TIC) and Calpine held a press conference Thursday in response to respond to union picketers who marched at the Buttercreek Highway turnoff to the company’s Hermiston power project. The picketers wanted contractors Calpine and TIC to sign a union agreement.

On hand as Thursday’s press conference from Calpine to comment and answer questions were Project Manager Sam McIntosh and Plant Manager Rick Colgan. From TIC were Construction Manager Pete Lauretano, PIO Gary Bennett, and Office Manager Cheryl McAlmond.

The Industrial Company (TIC) is an open shop or merit shop contractor. According to Construction Manager Pet Lauretano, some 80 percent of construction being performed in the United States is done by open shop, nonunion contractors, and TIC hires employees based on their qualifications.

Lauretano said that a union contract might interfere with meeting company standards such as safety, quality, and productivity, a claim that union officials emphatically deny, pointing to their training and apprenticeship programs. Most unions require that employment issues be handled through a union steward and the union, but TIC prefers to “deal directly” with its employees concerning employment, promotion, and discipline.

As to training, Lauretano said TIC has its own apprentice programs in civil, structural, mechanical, welding and pip fitting and electrical instrumentation. “Everyone here has been trained in what they do,” he said. For example, welders have welding certifications, electricians have electrician licenses and so-on.

TIC also has a management training program, and they promote from within. Lauretano started out as a boilermaker with the company some 17 years ago, and now is in management. The company uses a core of workers who move with the company, but TIC also hires locally. According to Lauretano, 43 percent of their workers here were hired from the local area.

Said Calpine Project Manager Sam McIntosh, “TIC is not going to go to a union and ask for a worker, but if a union worker wants a job he can apply.”

Instead of going to the union hall, TIC uses the employment office, Lauretano said. And according to McIntosh, “The need for unions has been declining. It’s a global issue, not a local issue. Their numbers are declining.” Unions have declined, McIntosh said because employers have learned that they must treat their employees well.

Said TIC representative Gary Bennett, “We feel we have a very competitive pay and benefit program, but then he added, “Unions have not remained competitive.” According to Lauretano, TIC pays craftsmen $17 to $23 per hour, plus a host of other benefits.

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