‘Ripple effect’ expected if Portland city workers strike

Civic Affairs

6 labor unions voting this week whether to strike

PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — Portland city employees in 6 labor unions began voting Monday whether to authorize a strike after their contract negotiations reached an impasse in recent days.

The District Council of Trade Unions leaders said elected officials need to take responsibility for budgeting better for their work force.

AFSCME President Rob Martineau told KOIN 6 News they “all provide critical services and they should not expect their workers to do that for less than the value of their labor. This isn’t a volunteer organization.”

AFSCME President Rob Martineau, January 10, 2022 (KOIN)

The biggest impacts from a strike would be to bureaus that handle Portland’s water, transportation, development services, policing and finances. It would also have ripple effects on all aspects of city life if more than 1100 city workers are out on the picket line.

“All of those things are going to be a direct impact to folks in the city of Portland,” Martineau said.

The voting on whether to strike will go on all week. Because of the pandemic, some voting is in person, some is online. Officials will tally the votes over the weekend and have results by Sunday or Monday.

The 6 unions involved in the voting are 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.

A list of the Portland bureau workers who are members of the District Council of Trade Unions as of January 10, 2022 (City of Portland)

In a statement, city leaders said, in part, “We feel confident that the offer the City has provided the District Council of Trade Unions and its members meets many of the needs raised by the DCTU during the course of these negotiations.”

City officials said these members currently make a median wage of more than $73,000 a year and that their contract offer includes these key highlights:

  • A $1,500 bonus for all DCTU members
  • A retroactive 1.6% cost of living adjustment (July 2021)
  • An anticipated 5% cost of living adjustment (July 2022 )

But Martineau said they’ve asked for longevity premiums, higher wages to keep up with inflation and to properly compensate people for their specialties.

City workers and union supporters rallied outside Portland City Hall ahead of a strike authorization vote, January 8, 2022 (KOIN)

“There absolutely has been economic displacement over the last several years in Portland, and our members have very much felt that,” he said.

City workers want to prosper in Portland. Union leaders say that happens on pay day.

The bargaining teams for both the city and the unions are scheduled to meet for another negotiating session on Tuesday.

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