Portland Public Schools ratifies union contracts with maintenance, custodians, food service workers


Portland Public Schools (PPS) has ratified new union contracts with maintenance employees of the multi-union District Council of Unions (DCU), and with custodians and nutrition services staff represented by Service Employees Local 503.

The school district employs 78 maintenance workers who are members of 13 craft unions. That entire workforce will receive a 12% wage increase over the next four years, plus a nearly 12% increase in district contributions to their health insurance premiums. The first wage hike of 3% is effective July 1, 2020, followed by 3% hikes on July 1 in each of the subsequent three years to 2023. Effective Jan. 1, 2020, PPS pays $1,355 a month for health insurance premiums. That will increase 5% in 2021 and top out Jan. 1, 2023 at $1,524 a month.

Additionally, a wage comparison study conducted by the school district and DCU resulted in further hourly wage adjustments for several crafts. Starting July 1, 2020, plumbers will get an additional 60 cents an hour, mechanics will get 90 cents, laborers will get 25 cents, and electricians and carpenters will get $1.25. In July 2021, plumbers will get another 50 cents an hour, mechanics will get 80 cents, laborers will get 15 cents, and electricians and carpenters will get another $1.

Hourly wages at PPS currently range from $24.80 to $37.93, depending on the craft. Leads, forepersons, and other specialty workers are paid an additional 3 to 10%.

The last two contracts at PPS were one-year extensions, the second of which expired on Dec. 31, 2019.

“This was the least contentious bargaining we’ve had in decades,” said DCU President Pat Christensen, a business rep for Plumbers and Fitters Local 290. “There was a respectful tone and real professionalism in the room.”

DCU members ratified the pact by a large margin in December, and the PPS School Board confirmed the deal with a unanimous vote on Jan. 7.

Unions affiliated with DCU are Local 290, Bricklayers Local 1, Carpenters, Cement Masons Local 555, IBEW Local 48, Glaziers Local 740, Laborers Local 737, Floor Coverers Local 1236, Machinists District Lodge W24, Painters & Drywall Finishers Local 10, Plasterers Local 82, Sheet Metal Workers Local 16, and Teamsters Local 206.

SEIU Local 503’s new agreement provides both custodians and nutrition service workers with large cost of living adjustments (COLAs) to bring their wages up to a rate that is more commensurate with neighboring districts. And long-term staff will receive bonuses.

Wage adjustments for custodians will result in around a 5% increase retroactive to July 1, 2019, followed by a 3% increase on July 1, 2020.

“It’s the best we’ve ever gotten. It’s the most money we’ve gotten for these employees in years,” said Tim Curtin, a custodian at Grant High School and a member of the bargaining team.

Nutrition services assistants got a 5% increase retroactive to July 1, 2019, plus increases in 2020 and 2021. Some high school leads will get one-time $1,000 bonuses, and all leads will see a 4% wage hike on July 1, 2020, and 5% on July 1, 2021.

The union represents 509 custodians and nutrition service workers at the school district.

The School Board ratified the contract on a unanimous vote held Jan. 21.


  1. These contracts for PPS custodians, nutrition service workers and their fellow PPS maintenance workers are great news!! It is the culmination of a long fight for justice by Portland Public School workers who keep our schools clean, safe and supportive for our students, teachers and other school support staff.


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