Portland Public Schools files legal charges against unions

Portland Public Schools filed an unfair labor practice charge with the Oregon Employment Relations Board Oct. 20 alleging that two District Council of Unions (DCU) sub-group have refused to honor tentative agreements they signed with the school district.

Some 300 craft and maintenance workers, bus and truck drivers, warehouse employees and other support staff represented by the DCU, an umbrella group of a dozen union locals, have been working without a contract since June 30, 2004.

The DCU bargains the main body of the contract before unions representing nine sub-groups bargain side agreements germane to their workers.

One of the sub-groups singled out in the ULP, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, allowed its members to vote on two tentative proposals, and both times they were rejected.

A second sub-group charged in the ULP represents maintenance and craftworkers. A union official said the group has sought legal advice, but likely will vote the contract.

Seven other union sub-groups have agreed to the terms of a new contract.

Last month the school district declared an impasse in bargaining. Both sides presented their final offers to the Oregon Employment Relations Board on Oct. 19.

The school district said its proposal is identical to the deals it had previously submitted.

Co-payments for health insurance is the key sticking point. ATU said bus operators are some of the lowest paid workers at the district, and they can’t afford to co-pay more than $200 a month for their health insurance.

Officials from the maintenance and craftworkers sub-group said that co-payments for health insurance, on top of wage freezes, result in a net loss for workers. They want wage increases similar to those received by teachers and classified employees during bargaining a year-and-a-half ago to help offset the co-payment on insurance.

Oct. 19 was the start-date of a mandatory 30-day cooling off period, after which the school district can implement all or part of its proposals and the unions have the right to strike after giving a 10-day notice.

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