Portland park rangers win raises in long-sought first contract

Rangers meet after ERB winIn votes counted Oct. 31, City of Portland park rangers ratified a collective bargaining agreement that provides wage increases of up to several dollars an hour, and adds them to the larger agreement with the multi-union coalition known as the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU).

The City employs about two dozen uniformed rangers who work with police, social service agencies, and neighborhood groups to maintain security in city parks. They solve conflicts, help park users, and enforce dog leash/scoop rules and prohibitions on camping and alcohol consumption, and they can issue park exclusions, if necessary.

In March 2013, the rangers unionized with Laborers Local 483, which represents other Parks employees, but the City refused to recognize their choice until after it lost legal challenges and saw the result of a May 2014 union election. Bargaining commenced soon after, though there wasn’t much of it: The agreement rangers voted on was substantially the same as the City’s initial offer. Still, the agreement contains a number of improvements.

Under its terms, full-time permanent rangers will have a starting wage of $18.99 an hour (up from $17.47 an hour currently), and get periodic raises until they reach $25.16 after four years on the job. Rangers hired as seasonal employees will make a starting wage of $15.83 an hour (up from $12 an hour now), rising to $20.55 in year 3. Rangers will also participate in a safety committee. Other terms, including health insurance and other benefits, match those of the DCTU contract, for regular rangers. And seasonal rangers will be eligible for health care benefits under the City’s Seasonal Workers Plan starting January 2015. Seasonal rangers who perform satisfactorily will also get priority consideration for rehire the following year.

This was the only time the rangers will bargain separately with the City. Next time, they expect to bargain as part of the 1,600-member DCTU. The current DCTU contract runs through June 30, 2017.

“From where we were two years ago, it’s good,” said bargaining team member Sam Sachs, one of the rangers who led the push to unionize.

Local 483 has also pushed to make more rangers permanent employees, and limit the number of rangers designated as seasonal. In the past, most rangers have been classified as seasonal workers, laid off after they work 1,400 hours in a year. Responding to rangers who spoke Oct. 22 at a City Council meeting, City Commissioner Amanda Fritz said she will try again to add nine permanent positions to the budget.

“Portland Park Rangers serve admirably as the goodwill ambassadors of our parks and natural areas, and I am pleased we have come to this agreement,” Fritz said in an Oct. 29 press statement.

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