PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — It’s been decades since there was a city employee strike in Portland.
However, that will likely change on Thursday.
Portland City Council consented to a resolution on Wednesday that will give city attorneys the right to take legal action quickly if it becomes necessary during the expected strike.
The strike will include more than 600 employees from bureaus including water, transportation and environmental services, as well as parks and recreation.
Local 483, the union representing these workers, says they’ve been negotiating with the city for nearly a year but says the city hasn’t budged on demands for higher wages and fair treatment and safety.
James O’Laughlen, who says he’s worked at the city’s water treatment plant for about six years, went before city commissioners to express his frustration about the failing negotiations.
“The members of this council and people around the city in positions of power are very good about communicating how valued and cared for their essential workers are, but the first time you bring a material problem to someone and they say how much they care about you and understand, you feel heard, the 110th time you do it and they give the same response, you feel insulted. We really need the city to live its stated values and provide our members with a fair contract so they can keep doing the essential work that the people of Portland need them to do,” he said.
Commissioner Dan Ryan responded to O’Laughlen, saying “thank you for testifying today, and given the status of the situation, at this time, the council does have no comment. But we want to thank you for your statement,” Ryan said.
The City of Portland says they began negotiations with the union in March of 2022 and met 19 times before the union requested mediation. According to the city, after two mediation sessions, the union declared an impasse. Both the city and union submitted final offers at the end of December.
The city says the average yearly salary of these union employees is a little more than $65,000 and the city’s latest proposal offered a nearly $11,000 annual increase.
Representatives with the city tell KOIN 6 that the city is prepared to hire contract or temporary workers if need be.