The Cowlitz-Wahkiakum Labor Union Council elected a new president on Monday, bringing to a close current president Shawn Nyman’s four consecutive terms.
Tara McElligott, 30, was elected after Nyman withdrew her nomination. McElligott’s one-year terms starts immediately.
McElligott has worked for four years as a chemical process operator at Emerald Kalama Chemical, where she is also the chief shop steward and recording secretary for the International Chemical Workers Union.
A Kelso native, McElligott graduated from Kelso High School and studied healthcare at Lower Columbia College. She served the council as secretary, treasurer and as a trustee for six years, but had to scale back her involvement for the last two years to focus on negotiations at her local union.
Now that negotiations are finished, McElligott said she felt ready to get involved once more.
“The Labor Council showed me how tight-knit the labor community is in this area and just how imperative it is to stay involved,” McElligott said.
Looking ahead, McElligott said the council is likely to spend a great deal of time and energy on increasing family wage jobs, which means lending support to industrial projects like Northwest Innovation Works’ proposed methanol plant in Kalama.
Included in that support will be fighting misinformation about the Kalama plant, McElligott said. She said, in terms of functions, the plant wouldn’t be too different from her current employer, Emerald Kalama Chemical, and would be operated by a “skilled labor force who value our community and its health.”
“ ... It is imperative we get the (methanol plant) project going for our local trades and economic growth,” McElligott said. “I would like to find innovative ways to bring economic development to our area; we have the land and resources, let’s make our area a draw for companies.”
The labor council represents a diverse workforce, from blue collar workers to office staff. Representing the spectrum of labor workers in Cowlitz and Wahkiakum counties is a big job, McElligott said, adding that her work experience has given her an idea of what it’s like to be in different workers’ shoes.
“We are a very diverse group and I believe I can touch on both trades and services and office workers,” McElligott said. “I spent nearly eight years as an emergency room technician and CNA at PeaceHealth, then transitioned to an industrial job as a chemical worker. This gives me a unique perspective on labor and the needs of the building trades and services workers, educators and office workers.”
Nyman, who said she was involved in every local informational picket during her time as president, said it’s in her blood to stay involved.
“After four years of volunteering as president, it’s perfect timing for a successor, given where I’m at personally and professionally,” Nyman said in a statement. “I withdrew my nomination for president and give my full support to Tara. It will be great to see her continue to grow the council. We are a diverse council, from the public and private sector; different unions with different interests. We must find that common thread and come together for all workers. It’s been an honor to serve and I have been a proud union sister doing it.”
Nyman took over as president after Kyle Mackey. She said she remembers Mackey handing her a notebook, wishing her luck and telling her she was “fearless.”
“True. I’ve done what I knew to do and I’ve done what I thought I should do, surrounded by a core of hardworking and tirelessly committed union brothers and sisters who’ve done the same,” Nyman said in a statement.
McElligott said Mackey also influenced her. He originally recruited McElligott as a delegate for the council, she said, later encouraging her to run for secretary and treasurer. They worked closely during her years in the position.
“Being young and trying to revive this movement is tough, but Kyle did it,” McElligott said. “I can’t thank him enough.”
Also elected were: Justin Sellars as vice president, Adam Davis as sergeant at arms, Glen Esperson as secretary and treasurer and Rick Avery as trustee.