PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A group of Portland city workers and union leaders held a rally in front of City Hall Saturday afternoon as the union representing them has planned a vote on whether to authorize a strike.
The District Council of Trade Unions, a group of smaller unions including those representing municipal trade employees, said it reached an impasse with the city in bargaining for a new contract. Organizers said wage raises in the city’s last offer were not high enough to compensate for inflation.
DCTU includes AFSCME Local 189, IBEW Local 48, Operating Engineers Local 701, Machinists District Lodge 24, Plumbers Local 290 and Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5.
“Our contract negotiations are at an impasse,” said Jeannette DeCastro, the steward and chapter chair of Local 189. “We are not happy with the city’s last, best and final offer. We have felt disrespected over the last couple years due to COVID.”
A strike authorization could be voted on as soon as Monday.
“City employees have been through a lot of challenges in the past couple of years and we’ve been thanked by email and verbally and I appreciate that,” DeCastro said, “but when all of our financial requests or vacation requests or safety requests are pushed back upon it starts to erode that sentiment.”
DeCastro said the union is very broad and a strike could impact a wide variety of services like water treatment, street repair and building inspections. A strike would grind some municipal functions to a halt.
“It includes public works inspectors like myself,” she told KOIN 6 News. “It includes accountants, it includes analysts, it includes mechanics, it includes painters and electricians.”
Jesse Dreyer with Teamsters Local 162 said he came to support the city workers because he doesn’t want to see city workers economically displaced from the city.
“This is the struggle of the working class. You know, the city workers, they make our city work,” Dreyers said. “We need to have the city streets paved by PBOT in order to make our jobs effective and to do our job well. We drink the Portland public water, we need that to be clean and, you know, the people who clean it need to be paid effectively in order to do their job well because we don’t want to see a decrease in services because of the Great Resignation.”
Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler and City Commissioners issued the following joint response:
“Fair pay, safe working conditions, and the opportunity to fully participate and benefit from our economy, community, and our country: all working people deserve these basic things. City employees kept Portland running for almost two years in the face of a global pandemic, an economic recession, and a long-overdue racial justice reckoning. City employees persevered through personal and professional challenges to help balance the City’s budget. We remain incredibly grateful to our employees and all they bring to Portland.”