Green jobs in Oregon should be fair jobs, too.

By Andrea Salinas of Portland and Joe Munger of McMinnville. Andrea is legislative director of the Oregon Environmental Council. Joe is the president of United Steelworkers Local 8378.

Creating a “green economy” has become a common goal, and addressing climate change through economic development opportunities is something we’re striving to do across Oregon and in every sector of the economy. In many ways Oregon has led the way with green job creation, using tax incentives and legislative authority to encourage the growth of “green industries”.

Companies that benefit from these green industry incentives have a responsibility to ensure that green jobs are as fair and equitable for workers as they are sustainable for our economy and our environment. Most green jobs legislation has suggested that the jobs created should be good for people and the environment, but there has not been accountability. Currently, however, we all have the opportunity to hold a company that has benefitted from recent green jobs legislation accountable and call on them to ensure that their green jobs are good jobs too.

A Model Example?

CRT Processing is an electronics disassembly and recycling plant in Clackamas. This company came to Oregon after e-waste legislation passed the 2007 Oregon Legislature, requiring electronics manufacturers to create or pay for e-waste recycling centers for covered electronic devices and mandating that these recycling services be free of charge to Oregonians.

CRT Processing is leading the way in the electronics disassembly and recycling industry in Oregon. The e-waste law went into effect on January 1, 2009 and CRT Processing was prepared to start recycling items and ready to go even before that date. CRT’s programs like “Glass to Clean Glass Recycling” are critical to Oregon’s sustainable future. They not only address environmental concerns, but also provide an opportunity to expand Oregon’s green job sector. CRT Processing sounds like a model Oregon company.

Fighting Workers, Fighting Good Jobs

Several months ago, the workers at CRT contacted the United Steelworkers and conveyed their interest in organizing a union. Interested workers told stories about exposure to toxic chemicals without enough protection and a lackluster pay scale. Within a matter of weeks, a large majority of the workforce signed a petition calling for a National Labor Relations Board union recognition election.

The election was scheduled, and for the first week or two the company looked like they were going to let workers decide whether or not they wanted to form a union. But suddenly things changed. CRT Processing must have read the textbook on how to fight union organizing campaigns, and aced the test. Workers are so scared that speaking out could cost them their job that, although they support this post, none of them felt comfortable signing on to it.

Oregon needs green jobs, but Oregon also needs good jobs. CRT Processing executives have already heard from a few of our elected officials, but that’s not enough. We want you to call them out. Please join us as we call CRT Processing and explain to their executives that their employees deserve to vote on forming a union without their intimidation tactics, and that Oregonians deserve to be paid a living wage and work in a safe environment. Call general manager Chris Findlay at 503-722-2236 and company president Jim Cornwell at 608-754-3400.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Perhaps the company wants to do the right thing and doesn't feel the need for interferance from the USW. Perhaps they looked up all the help you gave Republic, US Steel, J&L and Bethleham Steel Companies and would rather present an opposing view - which is their right.

    The company knows under the NLRB that a vote must take place. This is a common tactic of USW and Teamsters nationwide - when it looks like some of the opposing information gets out and people lose interest - then you withdraw your petition for a representation election. Can't lose an election that you don't hold.

    Remind me again how well all those USSteel workers faired that you took out on strike in 1987? Is Homestead in existence? How about Braddock? Edgar Thompson Works?

  • Adam503 (unverified)

    Cutting and pasting all those Richard Mellon Scaife paid right wing anti-labor talking points from World Net Daily wasn't too mentally taxing for you, was it, "Kurt Chapman"?

    We all know how the filthy rich hate any money ever getting out of their trust funds and family owned banks to people who, like, you know, work for a living.

    Yes. We know the filthy rich in the United States will shutdown a US business, pack up the equipment and re-open it in China if here is the slightest chance the US employees might unionize. There's going to be laws preventing that shortly.

    We know the far right really loves the way the Chinese Government deals with anyone who tries to organize a trade union in China. The Chinese gov't throws them in prison and turns them into organ "donors."

  • Barbara Byrd (unverified)

    Thanks Joe and Andrea for calling our attention to a crucial issue in how Oregon spends taxpayer money. We rightly provide incentives for the creation of jobs in our state, especially during a recession. But ANY company receiving these incentives, tax subsidies, etc. should be required to commit to paying family wage jobs and health benefits, and providing an open, fair and democratic process to employees wishing to organize a union to represent them.

    If the workers at CRT Processing are allowed to choose for themselves, without employer intimidation, isn't that the right thing for Oregonians to support?

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Adam503 - At least I have the cajones to use my real name and not hide behind some internet psuedonym.

    And no my ingnorant young fool, I didn't cut and paste, I did something unheard of in the younger generation of mindless trolls such as yourself - I used my intellect and memory. You should try it some time if you can make it far enough away from your bong infested haze.

    For some truly educational opportunities read, "And the Wolf Finally Came: The Decline and Fall of the American Steel Industry" by John Hoerr, the former Labor Writer for the Pittsburgh Press.

    His work is excellent and he pulls no punches. There were plenty of managment mistakes, but the final nail in Big Steel's coffin was the continued USW insistence that COLA's, huge pay increases. increased medical and retire benefits be automatic rather than tied to measureable productivity improvement.

    Its a rather thick tome so if you start next week you might get done by the new year.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Unions came into power when skilled labor was in short supply and the power of a strike could force greedly corporations to accept the unions and to pay fair wages and benefits. In case you have not read the paper in the past thirty five years, things are different now. Workers - especially unskilled labor like CRT is using - are a dime a dozen. People line up by the hundreds to apply for crap Wal-Mart jobs. The National Labor Relations Act is more or less worthless in this business environment, and most sophisticated employers know that. Good luck with your organizing effort, but as a betting man I would not give you much of a chance.

  • Adam503 (unverified)

    "Kurt Chapman" Don't go pounding yourself on the back too long about your supposed name, there, chief. Right wingers get caught astroturfing fake/stolen identities so much on the net, they're getting busted for lying about astroturfing fake IDs in the press releases they had previously issued to apologize for lying about astroturfed fake IDs.

    How about we call you Kurt Chapman/Guckert?

    You read a book? Oh, joy! Here's a cookie. (You right wingers always pause after announcing you read a book. Like some reward is supposed to come to you because you read a book. Like a bellboy who hasn't been tipped yet pauses inside your room next to your bag looking around at the ceiling pattern.

    Too bad it's more than two decades ago you read that book.

    Convienient or you that you read that book way, way, way back then and dug up a book written before Bartlett and Steele's Pulitizer Prize winning series of articles about wealth redistribition were published in the Philly Inquirer, huh.

    Inconvienient for you that I do remember that fact, and keep a link to those articles.

    Anything written prior to the Bartlett and Steele series is useless. Nobody had an clue of how bad income redistribution had gotten under Reagan before the Bartlett. That's income reditribution has gotten far worse. Now 90% of the capital in the US is in the hands of the top 10% of earners.

    There is so little money circulating in the lower and middle classes that nothing the lower/middle classes could do or not do would have any significant economic effects. That include decisions on opening/closing plants. Steel workers make so little money in comparison to what the owners/directors/stockholders make that no decision involving the salaries of steel workers could effect the health of an industry. Too little money involved to have any real effect.

    Now, it's just about elite greed. They have almost all the money, The filthy rich aren't going to be happy with almost all the money. They want all the money.

  • Adam503 (unverified)

    Greg, funny how that none of that is true in the EU, where the minimum wage is a wage people can live on, they get free health care, unions have government protections against union busting, and everyone gets 5-6 weeks of vacation a year.

  • Greg D. (unverified)

    Adam, I did not say what I said with any sense of joy, only a firm sense of reality. The countries of Northern Europe are so far ahead of the good old USA in many aspects of life. Respect for workers, respect for the elderly, respect for childbearers, etc. etc. etc.

    But here, in the land of Darwinian Economic Theory, we can enjoy the benefits of kill or be killed, get sick and lose your house, etc. etc. etc.

    And for those who say - "if you like Denmark so much, move there" - please provide me with step by step instructions as to how to do so. My wife and I will be on the plane tomorrow.

  • (Show?)

    Interesting issue. So many questions.

    I’m certainly for the right to form unions without intimidation (NLRB rules) and a safe work environment (OSHA regulations), but as far as “fair” or “good” or “family” wages, I need more information.

    I assume (please correct me if I’m wrong) that 2007 e-waste law created standards to be met in recycling electronic waste and designated an agency to enforce those standards; that some mechanism was created to assess the electronic manufactures and to pay the e-waste recyclers; and that competition among e-recyclers was encouraged in order to ensure the least costly process.

    So, although I’m not familiar with CRT Processing’s work force, I am bit of Greg’s opinion: that they are probably mostly unskilled workers, and are, if not “a dime a dozen,” at least plentiful. The challenge in increasing their wages is to remain competitive. Their competitive threat, unlike Adam503’s fear of a move to China, is another Oregon based business that is less costly, whether through lower wages or increased productivity.

    Alternatively, this could be shaping up as a sweetheart deal where CRT Processing has an Oregon monopoly (or with several other firms is part of a cartel, and could even be “regulated” by a public agency) on such e-waste recycling, can thus charge anything it wants, and thus can pass through any cost increase.

    I’d like to think we are creating a competitive market for e-waste recycling and letting each business, union or not, determine it own wages. I just don't know enough facts.

  • mp97303 (unverified)

    Oregonians deserve to be paid a living wage

    Just curious, who defines that? I mean, what I need to live on and what you need to live on may be two entirely different things. Does some agency define that or is it like the mysterious per student funding figure that everyone talks about but no one will define.

    Also kinda funny that Andrea and Joe failed to post their phone numbers so people could call them with their concerns.

  • Steve (unverified)

    Go ahead and lean on CRT Recycling. He'll just send the CRTs to China (hopefully) to be recycled and then we'll have no jobs or old CRTs.

    How about working with CRT Recycling to make them more competitive in the global economy? Or is it better just to pretend nothgin goes on outside of Oregon?

  • Adam503 (unverified)

    Steve, I don't care what happens in China or any place other than Oregon. I don't live there. I live in Oregon. Oregon is a very highly desired place to live and work.

    If CRT Recycling wants to move it's themselves to China, live in a toxic cesspool and live in fear of being the next minority the Chinese ruling clique chooses to randomly imprison and sell off their organs to the organ transplant black market, they are welcome to do that.

    If they wish to do business in Oregon, they are going to be regulated by people who live in Oregon.

  • alcatross (unverified)

    Greg D. wrote: And for those who say - "if you like Denmark so much, move there" - please provide me with step by step instructions as to how to do so. My wife and I will be on the plane tomorrow.

    Are you sure you don't also want us to plan your trip, make your reservations, pay for your tickets, and tie up any loose ends here in the US for you? You know there are passenger ships and even more creative (and less expensive) ways to get to Denmark than just conventionally flying commercial, yes? Think out of the box, my friend...

    But it is reassuring to know things aren't QUITE so bad here yet that you've given up on waiting for someone else to figure out for you how to immigrate to Denmark!

    From what I've read about Danish immigration, if you're not interested enough or possess the resourcefulness to figure out how to get in there yourself, they don't want you.

    You know, life would be very different here today had the US adopted the same draconian immigration policies (the most restrictive in the EU) Denmark did back in 1973. Have you considered that part of the reason we've got an increasingly large population of 'have nots' vs 'haves' here is the massive number of immigrants (legal and illegal) with limited education and job skills that have entered this country over the last 40 years or so?

    Your expressed attitude here is reflective of that of an increasingly too large a segment of our country's population - people waiting for someone to provide them with 'step-by-step instructions' to their lives plus a 'living wage' job with 5-6 weeks annual vacation, 'free' health care, 'free' college education, someone to explain the terms of their mortgage contracts to them, etc etc.

  • Joe M (unverified)

    Kurt Chapman,

    interferance from the USW Organizers don't start a campaign at a work site because they were in the neighborhood. It may be a shock to you, but those workers and those bosses know why USW appeared one day.

  • Joe M (unverified)

    Greg D.,

    I like your first sentence. But you lost me when you described that there are jobs that are not relevant to unions. Because of low skills, wages, etc. All jobs are eligible for organizing. There is no litmus, ceiling, floor to bringing democracy to the workplace. We organize nurses, lawyers, baristas, homecare workers, cab drivers, etc. If as you say "most sophisticated employers" keep a majority of their employees happy, than they never need be concerned with organizing. But if as you describe those "crap Wal Mart jobs" become union and collectively bargain for a modest first contract with little gains, the most important gain would be that they are not at will employees anymore. Just cause termination alone is worth the dues they will begin paying.

  • Joe M (unverified)


    Here is a link to the living wage calculator:

    I can't imagine what concerns people might have about the column that would require my phone number. But I imagine if you work at it you could get it, little creepy. Good luck with that.

  • Joe M (unverified)


    Organizing a work site = leaning on?

    What I think some folks don't realize is there are more benefits to having a union in place for the company than you think. Lets explore a couple:

    insulated from lawsuits immune from some Federal, State, and local laws established support on safety access to less expensive benefits through Union sponsored pension, health care, etc. Industry, business specific lobbying support for standards in training, quality, etc. to insure a solid position in a competitive market

    Unionizing a work site is not the end of the world or any particular business. That blame would lie elsewhere. For instance look at the destructive Free (not fair) Trade Agreements, GATT, WTO, deregulation, unenforced antitrust laws, ignoring infrastructure, price gouging (to many to name), not leading on green-science-etc., anti "made in America" consumerism, out of control credit, etc. all contributing to the demise of the middle class. Creating a landlord society where money that could be used to reward labor, management, and productive investment gets skimmed off by the fortunate few.

    We have traded government regulation of corporations for corporate regulation of government. Employee Free Choice Act will not create dramatic change, but it will ensure that when a majority want a Union, a majority get a Union. The sooner we put economic power back where it belongs, with the Middle Class, the better.

    I never get why some would be opposed to workers banding together to improve conditions in a workplace. Their is power in numbers. I think we first have to decide if an individuals labor is a commodity that employers need? This commodity is already taxed and regulated. They certainly have control over their own labor. It must be that they organize that causes the problem.

  • Kurt Chapman (unverified)

    Joe M, I have no idea what propaganda reel you just swallowed whole but here is the truth about some of your allged benefits:

    insulation from lawsuits - What? Unless you are trying to say they union wanting to represent your employees will stop with frivolous lawsuits once you recognize them, maybe.

    immune from some federal, state and local laws - WOW! There is not a two-tiered set of labar laws in our country. All employers are held to the same standards in NLRA, DOL, OSHA and ERISA regardless union representation.

    established support on safety - if you mean Peg Semanario and her group at AFL-CIO, good luck. All employers have established support through the consultative divisions of OSHA in each state. It is especially effective here in Oregon.

    access to less expensive benefits through Union sponsored pensions, health care, etc. - Need I say anything more than The Great Lakes Pensions Trust Funds. They were pillaged by the Teamsters for their own good. WHile causing cost/hr benefits costs to go through the roof. Locally, most school districts find that they can either self insure or insure directly through Regence at a savings to union health plans.

    Industry, business specific lobbying - please cite one industry wide union supported effort.

    Support for standards in training, quality, etc to insure a solid position in a competitive market. - Really? UAW, USW and OCAW actively fought quality efforts for years. Efforts at establishing industry wide training programs were also fought tooth and nail. Please cite one modern, successful union/industry quality program.

    Unions can be good for some employees at some times in some situations. They are not the universal panacea you describe.

  • Joe M (unverified)

    Kurt Chapman,

    You are being purposefully misleading or you have no idea what your talking about. Two tiered set of labor laws is exactly what we have in collective bargaining agreement. In many cases a CBA can have more favorable provisions than state or federal statutes. You not knowing this is telling.

    I would agree with your assessment on Or-OSHA. They are not perfect however and promote some ideas that are not particularly effective.

    On pension and health plans (specifically true with STEELWORKERS) the management of those plans are often more stable with union sponsored than company sponsored.

    I can cite many union sponsored lobbying favorable to industry. I'll note one this last session in Oregon sponsored by our local, SB 872 (by Oregon First). But nationally there are a bunch. Trade Act, Singlepayer, etc. There are many examples of defeated bills that helped industry.

    UAW approached automakers about fuel standards and their flawed business plan years ago. The number one thing a business can do is a strategic plan and should involve the workers.

    CRT Processing Oregon endeavor was created by legislation. Opportunities were created were none existed before. Those jobs should be family wage green jobs. Their profits are from mandates to recycle, and a couple dozen companies (Toshiba, HP, etc.) have become customers of CRT Processing.

  • Joe M (unverified)

    Other legislation and background:

    HB 2626 was signed by the gov. What it does is provide training for people to do "green" jobs to make people's home more energy efficient. Once trained the pay is not what I call very good and other benefits are questionable. We have gave the windmill folks $110 million in tax credits (which they don't need as the federal tax credits will off set their costs) and we're getting ready to give them $90 million more. The governor vetoed a bill that would of saved that 90 million and so it could be used somewhere else. So far this has created less than 100 full time jobs in this area. Pretty expensive jobs, right? These windmills were built in other states and the crews that put them together for the most part were from out of state.

    Also we're getting ready to give large tax credits to folks that are building solar panels here in Oregon creating 1000 plus jobs. This is good except China has completed the worlds largest solar panel factory and two more are nearly completed and China has boasted that in a very short time you will be able to buy their panels from Wal Mart for 1/3 the costs of one made here in Oregon. Good by Oregon jobs.

    Also, Oregon gave a out of state business $20 million in tax credits and grants to build a ethanol plant in the very northwest part of the state, again this group received federal tax credits. At least this facility was built by Oregon workers, union and non-union. This plant put 77 plus or minus people to work at decent wages. This facility closed after seven months taking our dollars with them and of course these workers found themselves in the unemployment line.

    We have continued to ask for a "claw-back" clause in these programs which if the business owner receives for example $1 million in tax credits to create 100 jobs and all of a sudden they cut back to 50 jobs 1/2 of the tax credit is retained by the state.

  • Joe M (unverified)

    The Wasteland6 Comments Read Story August 30, 2009 4:19 PM

    Where does all the electronic refuse our society generates end up? Some of it is shipped illegally from the U.S. to China, reports Scott Pelley, where it is harming the environment and people.;cbsCarousel

  • Ron Rodgers (unverified)

    Kurt Chapman Wow. You seem to be extremely educated but completely misinformed on unions. Your comments are eerily reminiscint of anti-union rhetoric I have heard from high priced lawyers and union busting firms that use these same half-truths and even more blatant outright lies in order to deter workers from excercising their legally protected rights to form unions. The most common misconception is that a union is some third party entity that comes in and takes complete control out of the hands of its members in their work location. In actuality, quite the opposite is true. The members of each local elect their leaders from the workers in the plant. The people who negotiate and administer their contract are co-workers from within the facility. The union does not "take workers out on strike." Strikes can only be approved by a majority vote of the workers in a facility and are always used as a last resort. There are many other corporate myths and propaganda that I do not have the time or space to discuss here. Also, you speak of the demise of the steel industry and reference Homestead and U.S. Steel. I would encourage you to read up on the history of Homestead and the atrocities that went on there at the turn of the century. The demise of Homestead was not due to unionism, but rather due to advances in technology that made their production systems obsolete. U.S. Steel is a very large and successful corporation to this day. Granted they do not employ the numbers that they did in the past, but again this is in large part due to technology, and also significantly due to imported steel from countries who do not enjoy the same labor and environmental protections we do in the United States. The fall of the steel industry in the late 70's and early 80's was not confined to union steel facilities. I cannot offer legitimate numbers from memory, but there were more non-union steel mill closures than union represented steel mill closures. Do you mean to imply that the non-union mills closed due to the union's insistance on fair wages and benefits as well. What really saddens me the most is that you seem to be passionate in your anti-union stance and see no problem with corporations paying their employees an hourly wage that will barely buy them a value meal at McDonald's while the execs of the company make more in a year than many of the people who do the sweat labor will in their entire lives. Is there not something wrong with this picture? Specifically regarding the CRT workers, their average wage is about $10 per hour. They are offered a health care plan, but for a worker and his child, the cost is about $450 per month. This equates to over 25% of his income before taxes even come into the equation, leaving him with a little over $1000 a month to house, feed, and clothe his family. Wage increases are promised after a 90 day review. Some of the workers that have been there for over a year are still wondering when they will receive their 90 pay increase. I am going to stop here as I could go on for pages upon pages on this topic. I will leave with one parting question. How much is enough? Would execs really be unduly hardshipped if their compensation packages were capped at, say, $5 million per year. Or maybe establish a policy such as the one that was self imposed by the founders of Ben and Jerry's. How much do the mega wealthy have to take out of the pockets of the very people that make them so profitable in order to continue to pad their already lavish salaries? The unsatiable hunger of sheer greed never ceases to amaze (and disgust) me. Again, wow!

  • Joe M (unverified)
    <h2>On Thursday the workers voted to become STEELWORKERS.</h2>
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