The District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU), representing over 1,000 employees at the City of Portland, declared impasse in contract negotiations Sept. 27. Five members of the union coalition’s bargaining team made the announcement sitting before the full City Council during their morning session.
Bargaining has been going on since Jan. 5 without success. The City called for the assistance of a mediator on July 31, which occurred over two meetings on Sept. 6 and 25 — also with little success. The contract expired June 30.
Having made very little progress with the mediator, the DCTU declared impasse as required under Oregon’s Public Employee Collective Bargaining Act. The action initiated a seven-day period to exchange final offers, followed by a 30-day cooling off period. Once the 30-day cooling off period has been exhausted (Nov. 8) the unions may engage in a work stoppage and the City may implement its final offer, with a 10-day notice to the other party.
At the Sept. 27 City Council meeting, DCTU bargaining team members accused the City’s bargaining team of negotiating in bad faith. DCTU submitted its financial package early on in bargaining, yet it took the City 70 days to respond with a financial “supposal” that was good only for that day, said Tony Bush, a member of Machinists Lodge 63 who works in the City fleet.
The union representatives believe it was a calculated move to draw out bargaining while the City negotiated separate contracts with Laborers 483 and Professional and Technical Employees Local 17.
“And then to force the DCTU to accept what they settled for,” said Rich Thallheimer, a parking code enforcement officer and member of AFSCME Local 189. “Well, I’ve got news for you. That’s not enough for the DCTU. We’re bargaining our own contract. We’re not bargaining a master contract for all of the other labor organizations in the City. But if you do want to force a contract on us, feel free to force the police PPA (Portland Police Association) contract that gave them 3 percent (raises) a year for three years. We would be happy to take that.”
DCTU is seeking across-the-board raises for all employees. Members gave up cost of living increases (known as COLAs) in the previous contract, and half of their COLA in the current contract that expired June 30, 2017, because of a bad economy. The economy has now rebounded, and now DCTU is asking to get back what they sacrificed, Thallheimer said.
DCTU also insists on full retroactive pay back to June 30, when the contract expired, maintaining internal promotion language, and no HIPPA (Health Insurance Privacy and Protection Act) release requirement to maintain lower out-of-pocket insurance costs. DCTU supports workers getting a preventative medical exam, but argues that a doctor’s note that the exam has been completed should be sufficient.
“The things we are asking for at the bargaining table are not created in a vacuum; they are carefully drafted with a chorus of input and support from all of the employees we represent,” said Mary Prottsman, a police desk clerk and member of Local 189.
“We want to get a fair contract,” Bush told commissioners. “We want to get it resolved soon so that everybody can get back to work and put the sideline grumblings that are happening in all the shops in the past.”
Also speaking before the City Council were Chris Montgomery of Operating Engineers Local 701 and Mark Hinkle, a 20-year electrician at the Bureau of Environmental Services and a member of IBEW Local 48.
Following their declaration of impasse, Mayor Ted Wheeler responded: “I’m sorry to hear that,” before moving on to the next item on the agenda.
Members of the DCTU handle parking enforcement, police records, finger printing, permit inspections, delivery of clean water, revenue collection, maintenance and repair of critical infrastructure and the City fleet, as well as administrative support for all of the City’s bureaus.
Other unions affiliated with DCTU are Plumbers and Fitters Local 290 and Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5.