October 5, 2007 Volume 108 Number 19

Metro councilors vote themselves 16 percent raises

Union workers at Metro got an eye-opener Sept. 27.

In contract negotiations, Metro told American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees (AFSCME) Local 3580 that raises of more than 2.7 percent weren’t affordable. But then Sept. 27 their bosses — the elected Metro councilors — voted unanimously to give themselves a 16 percent raise while union members carrying signs looked on. For Metro Council President David Bragdon, the raise was $15,332, bringing his salary to $111,132. The other six councilors are part time, and make one third that amount.

“We’re not too happy about that,” said Local 3580 president Amy Wilson.

Union protest pickets went up Sept. 30 at the Oregon Zoo, a Metro facility. Metro is a regional government that oversees the urban growth boundary and owns and operates the Oregon Zoo, Oregon Convention Center, and solid waste transfer stations. About 280 Metro employees belong to AFSCME. Laborers Local 483, which represents some zoo employees, is also in bargaining with Metro and took part in the picket.

AFSCME and Metro disagree over wages, health coverage and long-term disability coverage. Metro’s latest proposal would extend the probationary period for new employees to a year from its current six months and eliminate long-term disability coverage and an employee assistance program of mental health coverage for work-related issues.

Metro proposed a 2.7 percent raise in the first year of the four-year contract, followed by annual raises that equal the increase in the Consumer Price Index, but with a maximum of 2.75 percent. And Metro wants to cap its contribution to health insurance (which was $727 a month last year) at a rate that would rise 10 percent a year; any increase over that amount would be split 50-50 with employees.

As of press time, AFSCME had scheduled an Oct. 2 strike vote; if the two sides declare impasse, the union could strike after a 30-day cooling off period, possibly in early November. A state mediator was scheduled to meet Oct. 4.

“Negotiations are supposed to be about give and take, but Metro seems to believe we should do all of the giving and they get to do all of the taking,” said AFSCME spokesman Don Loving.

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