Backers of Major League Baseball sign ‘harmony agreement’ with labor

Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain (left) and Portland Diamond Project President Craig Cheek sign labor harmony agreement July 29.

Portland Diamond Project (PDP), the organization behind the effort to bring Major League Baseball to Portland, has signed a “Labor Harmony Agreement” with local trade unions that almost ensures the stadium will operate with a union workforce, wall-to-wall.

The agreement was signed July 29 by PDP founder and president Craig Cheek, and Oregon AFL-CIO President Tom Chamberlain on behalf of 13 affiliated unions. Cheek, a former Nike executive, said bringing baseball to Portland could create as many as 6,500 jobs, including construction of the stadium.

The agreement covers all represented jobs within the park, including concessions, program and retail sales, property service, security, hospitality services, stage and theatrical presentations, and entertainment and audio/visual services. Agreements regarding ballpark construction jobs will be addressed at a later date.

Once a baseball team is secured, a stadium built, and workers hired, unions in the harmony agreement will have access to workers within their jurisdictions, and can organize them via card-check. The agreement also calls for binding arbitration should bargaining break down, plus strong successor language should the organization ever be sold.

“By signing this agreement, the Portland Diamond Project has shown us they value and respect the rights of working people and care for the prosperity of our community,” Chamberlain said. “Oregon’s unions are proud to be a part of the efforts to bring baseball to the Rose City and to be a part of the only unionized sports arena in the state of Oregon. By giving workers the unfettered opportunity for union representation, we are securing a bright economic future for the women and men who will make baseball happen in Portland. When working people stand together in unions, we get a fair return on our hard work.”

Cheek said his organization is proud to partner with the Oregon AFL-CIO and its affiliated unions “to ensure that Portland is better with baseball—and that baseball is better with our labor community. This agreement is just the beginning of PDP’s efforts to generate economic opportunities for Portlanders and people across the region.”

In addition to baseball, PDP wants to see concerts and other events held at the venue. All of those would be staffed primarily with the same union workers.

PDP is talking about a $1.2 billion stadium with a retractable roof and seating for 32,000 to 36,000 spectators. The organization has signed an agreement in principle with the Port of Portland to develop 50 acres on Terminal 2 property along the Willamette River. In addition to the ballpark, the overall project would include housing, retail, office space and more, making it a large-scale endeavor. The harmony agreement does not apply outside the stadium.

But a lot still has to fall into place. For instance, securing a baseball team. This could happen either through expansion of the league or an existing team relocating to Portland. The Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s have been mentioned as struggling franchises. MLB commissioner Rob Manfred last year put Portland at the top of the list of possible expansion sites.

“However it happens, Portland is better organized than any other city in contention,” Chamberlain told the Labor Press.

Cheek said he is working on an aggressive timeline that would have them break ground in late 2020 and be ready for opening day in spring of 2023.

“This agreement is a significant milestone on our path to bringing a Major League Baseball team to Portland,” Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler said at the press conference. “The energy behind this movement continues to grow each day.”

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