PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — With more than 600 Portland city workers going on strike, there’s quite a divide between what the union wants and what the City of Portland is proposing.
The union says their wages should reflect the rapidly increasing cost of living in Portland and say the city doesn’t go far enough, particularly after the inflation from the last year.
The city is proposing a retroactive cost of living increase of 5%, plus a 1% raise for every union worker, going back to July 2022. It also proposes a 5% cost of living increase and 1% raise to go into effect in July 2023. However, 5% is the maximum cost-of-living adjustment allowed in the previous contract between the City and the Union.
Members of the union, Laborers’ Local 483, say that’s not enough in times of high inflation, like the past couple of years. . Their proposal calls for a 6.5% cost of living adjustment with a 3.5% raise to retroactively take effect for July 2022. It calls for another cost of living increase of 7.9% in July 2023, but no additional raise.
“They’re already obligated to give us cost of living increases, so that’s 5% and 5%, so that’s the first 10%. What they’ve actually offered is a 2% increase when the rate of inflation hasn’t kept up (with) cost of living and we were behind (the) market to begin with,” said Will Tucker, a Portland wastewater worker.
A spokesperson with Portland says 60% of union workers received an additional raise last July.
The union also wants their healthcare premiums to be 100% employee paid and believes that the city should contribute to employee retirement. The city, however, wants to shift pension costs to employees and make health care premiums 95% paid.
The city says the total increased cost of the contract would be $39 million over four years. KOIN 6 News was unable to reach union negotiators for comment on how much more their proposal costs.
However, KOIN 6 did speak to union members striking Thursday who said what they’re asking for makes up for years of not getting the cost-of-living adjustments.
“Nobody wants to strike,” Tucker said. “But, at some point, you have to earn the respect of your employer.”
The City of Portland tells KOIN 6, some union employees did show up to work today, though they aren’t sure exactly how many at the time of this posting. Other positions are being filled by supervisors, nonunion employees and contractors who have worked with the city before.
Tucker doubts his supervisors can do the job he does saying “they know in theory how it operates, but they do not know in fact how it operates.”
“If I can’t get that job done, somebody’s basement might flood out with sewage, it has happened before,” he said.
There are several other sticking points in negotiations. View the latest information from the City’s perspective here and from the union’s perspective here.