June 15, 2007 Volume 108 Number 12

Portland School District implements contract on DCU

Portland Public Schools (PPS) imposed its final contract offer June 11 on about 119 maintenance workers. The workers belong to a multi-union bargaining unit known as the District Council of Unions (DCU). They had been working without a contract for 18 months, since their previous one expired Jan. 1, 2006.

Negotiations failed to produce a contract the union side would agree to, so after a failed attempt at mediation and a 30-day “cooling off” period, the district implemented its own terms. Those include:

  • Continuation of a wage freeze that has been in effect since 2004;
  • Ending early retirement benefits as of 2014;
  • No pay on days when school is closed because of snow, though workers can use vacation days.

The District raised its monthly health insurance contribution by $15, to $779. Employees must pay any premium over that amount.

PPS spokesperson Matt Shelby said the DCU is the only group of District employees that is not slated for a wage increase. The District’s justification, Shelby said, is a market survey that found the majority of DCU members salaries were 10 to 15 percent above the market rate.

In a letter to DCU members, PPS director of labor relations Thomas Gunn reminded DCU members that if they strike the District has contingency plans to do their work. Gunn said the District would stop paying health and vacation benefits, scheduled vacations would be canceled, and members of other School District unions would be forbidden by law from honoring their picket lines. In December 2005, members ratified the contract after it had been unilaterally implemented by management. The DCU can go on strike, with 10 days’ notice, but as of press time, it wasn’t clear what action, if any, the DCU would take. Many DCU members are at or near retirement age.

“The ball is in their court,” Shelby said.