On Jan. 8, members of the Portland Police Association (PPA) hand-delivered letters to emergency communications dispatchers inviting them to leave their union, AFSCME, and instead join the police union. That’s known as a “raid” in union parlance.
For decades, AFSCME has represented workers at Portland’s Bureau of Emergency Communications (BOEC), as the 911 call center is formally known. The roughly 110 workers at BOEC make up AFSCME Local 189-2, a sublocal of the union’s City of Portland Local 189.
AFSCME Local 189 represents 1,000 workers in multiple city bureaus, including support staff at the Portland Police Bureau. It’s part of 26,000-member Oregon AFSCME, which is the largest union of county and municipal workers in Oregon. And it’s part of a multi-union coalition at the City known as the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU). PPA, with 900 members, is an independent police union.
PPA members will vote on a constitutional change Feb. 12 that would allow dispatchers to join. If the change is approved, and if over 30 percent of the BOEC members sign cards after April 1 saying they want jump ship, the Oregon Employment Relations Board would hold an election to see which union dispatchers favor.
Oregon AFSCME spokesperson Ross Grami said it was disappointing to see PPA engage in a raid, but AFSCME plans to continue doing the work of representation for dispatchers.
“We’re focused on getting into bargaining and winning a good contract,” Grami said.
The current union contract covering workers at BOEC expires June 30, and the two sides began contract negotiations Jan. 18.
Under Oregon law, emergency dispatchers aren’t allowed to strike. Instead, if bargaining breaks down without an agreement, the two sides present their final offers to an arbitrator.