With a highly uncertain economy ahead, unions are urging voters in Portland and the tri-county area to approve two local ballot measures that could make the difference between jobs and joblessness for thousands of workers.
The big one is Metro’s “Let’s Get Moving” referral, Ballot Measure 26-218. It would create an estimated 37,500 construction-related jobs over the next 20 years, investing nearly $4 billion in 17 transportation corridors across the Portland metro region, including Tualatin Valley Highway, McLoughlin Boulevard and an expansion of the MAX train system to Tigard and Tualatin. It would also pay for electric buses and bus passes for youth region-wide. To fund all this, a 0.75% payroll tax would begin in 2022 on businesses with over 25 employees.
Labor unions are backing the measure to the hilt—not just construction unions but United Food and Commercial Workers Local 555, allied with Metro leaders and environmental and community groups. But business groups are spending big to oppose it. The “yes” campaign features union members in its materials, including members of Cement Masons Local 555 in this very moving online ad.
The other make-or-break jobs measure is Measure 26-213, in Portland: It would reverse cuts and reopen community centers and pools, bringing back parks workers who were laid off. It would reverse a 10-year decline in park maintenance; reduce Parks & Rec’s reliance on user fees; keep the doors open at Multnomah Arts Center, Community Music Center, and Interstate Firehouse Cultural Center; and fund pool operations in North Portland. It’s a five-year property tax operating levy, at a rate of $0.80 per $1,000 of assessed value. Passing it is priority number one for Laborers Local 483, which has fought for over a decade to make parks and rec jobs pay a living wage with benefits.