Freightliner comes home


Freightliner’s all-electric eCascadia, soon to be union-made in Portland.

By Don McIntosh

Daimler Trucks North America is looking to hire 100 more union workers by July 1 at its truck plant in Portland’s Swan Island Industrial Park. To attract them it’s raising starting wages to $19 an hour —$4 above what it’s required to pay under its contract with Machinists Local Lodge 1005. That’s not all: It’s also offering to pay new workers a $1,000 hiring bonus once they reach 90 days on the job. And all current employees making less than the new starting wage will also see their wages increased to $19 hour.

Daimler needs more workers because demand is booming for the heavy-duty Western Star trucks the plant produces—including dump trucks and cement mixers. But the plant is also investing in new capital equipment, because Portland has been chosen as the site that will assemble two new lines of battery-powered 100% electric trucks under the Freightliner brand.

When the first eCascadia rolls off the production line some time in late 2022, it will be a homecoming for Portland. Freightliner—born in Portland in 1947—was bought by Daimler-Benz in 1981. Daimler gradually shifted production to the Carolinas and to Mexico, and in 2007, the last Portland-assembled Freightliner truck rolled off the assembly line. Since then, the Portland plant has produced trucks under the Western Star brand. [Western Star was a Canadian truck company that Daimler bought in 2000; Daimler shut down the Western Star plant in British Columbia and shifted its production to Portland.]

The eCascadia is a Class 8 heavy duty truck capable of 360 to 525 horsepower and up to 82,000 pounds. It advertises a 250 mile range, and can recharge up to 80% in 90 minutes. It will use a drive train built in Detroit by members of United Auto Workers Local 163 at another Daimler subsidiary, Detroit Diesel. 

Then in 2023, Daimler expects the Portland plant to begin producing the Freightliner eM-2, an electric box truck.

Daimler’s current contract with Machinists Lodge 1005 expires October 29, 2021. In May the company proposed to extend it by a year and open negotiations six months before expiration. Members rejected that proposal by more than four to one, so regular bargaining will likely start in September.

The current round of hiring will bring total union employment at the truck plant to just under 1,000, the highest it’s been in years. 

About those jobs: Daimler is hiring both assemblers and material handlers at $19 an hour. Workers reach top pay at five years. Currently that’s $28.05 an hour for assemblers and $26.32 an hour for material handlers. 

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