PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland employees began picketing just after midnight Thursday morning following failed negotiations with the City of Portland.

According to the city, there were 19 meetings with the Portland City Laborers but even after turning to a mediator, no progress was made. The PCL declared an impasse and both they and the city submitted final offers in late December 2022. The union then rejected the proposal.

The picketing began at 12:01 a.m. Thursday at the wastewater treatment plant in North Portland, according to a James O’Laughlen from the Laborers’ International Union of North America Local 483.

The city says the average yearly salary of the employees is a little over $65,000 and their latest proposal offered a nearly $11,000 increase — a 12% raise for the workers.

The union, meanwhile, says they took concessions during the pandemic.

According to O’Laughlen, the city wants the employees who kept the city working during the pandemic to take a pay cut, but they’ve already taken millions in concessions and have necessities that need to be met.

Along with the picketing at the wastewater treatment plant, there were also picket lines at the PBOT maintenance operations building and at Mt. Tabor, where over 200 parks and rec workers were lined up.

Arborist Jane Lacey says many of her colleagues cannot afford to live in Portland because of the rising cost of living. She says this strike is not just about wages, it’s about safety measures they want the city to put in place.

“I’ve had people who’ve been having mental health episodes threaten to murder me and then go and threaten to murder 12 children and I’m like ‘I’m going to have to defend them’ if he gets any closer, and my job is to be pruning the plant material, but yet he’s trying to take my tool because he wants to cut my head off,” she said.

The city says PBOT services will be prioritized but services currently on hold include:

  • City-wide street sweeping and cleaning
  • Routine sign maintenance
  • Bike lane repairs
  • Pavement maintenance

Park services are operating normally right now, but gaps in services could include:

  • Delayed trash collection
  • Emergency response to tree issues
  • General maintenance (lawns, shrubs, flower beds, golf courses)