It’s not been easy watching the bitter standoff between Instafab, a long-established Vancouver steel fabricator and installer, and its embittered former employees. More than one year out from a walkout by the first five workers to declare a strike against the nonunion company, the feud is only turning uglier and more personal.
Salaries, benefits, and jobs are at stake, as well as the livelihood of the man who co-founded the company decades ago. Most important, the safety of workers who take on the risky task of building our offices and homes is on the line.
And yet when many of the antagonists were in the same room for the first time since the conflict began, the gathering devolved into a new round of finger-pointing and name-calling.
The setting was a Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board hearing April 28 in Portland. The board was created by Portland Jobs with Justice, a worker advocacy nonprofit that has backed Instafab’s striking workers. The five-member board — two clerics, two Portland State University professors, and Oregon House Speaker Tina Kotek — convened to hear about safety concerns at Instafab raised by the company’s striking workers.
The topic is legitimate. While some safety complaints against the company have been dismissed or deemed minor, Washington’s Department of Labor & Industries recently imposed $30,400 in fines on Instafab for 10 safety violations categorized as “serious” at the company’s fabrication plant. Company owner Bruce Perkins, while not challenging the state’s findings, continues to argue that he’s a victim of overzealous regulators.