Last minute deal averts strike at City of Portland


Members of District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) voted to accept an updated contract offer from City of Portland management, averting a Feb. 10 strike. But the vote within some member unions was a strong rejection of the offer.

The City’s offer extended the length of the contract from three to four years, through Dec. 31, 2024, and added a 2% across-the-board wage increase in the fourth year. Previous City offers did not include across-the-board pay increases beyond cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs).

The new agreement includes a 1.6% COLA retroactive to July 2021; a 5% COLA this coming July, and COLAs of between 1% and 5% in both 2023 and 2024, depending on inflation. Workers will also receive a $3,000 one-time bonus. The agreement also creates a new classification compensation review process, which would allow for mid-contract pay adjustments.

The across-the-board increase and doubling of the one-time bonus were key factors in swaying members, said DCTU President Rob Martineau. DCTU is a coalition of six unions that bargain jointly with the City on behalf of roughly 1,200 City workers: AFSCME Local 189, IBEW Local 48, Machinists Lodge 1005, Operating Engineers Local 701, UA Local 290, and Painters District Council 5.

The DCTU bargaining committee received the city’s offer Feb. 3, and voted to send it to members the following day. Members voted over the weekend, and votes were tallied Feb. 9, the day before a strike was set to begin. Turnout was high, with 86% of DCTU members casting ballots; 58.6% of those voted to ratify the agreement. 

But there was significant variation in how DCTU affiliates voted, union reps said. 

IBEW Local 48 members voted 95% to reject the City’s offer, said Garth Bachman, the union’s business manager. IBEW members were ready to strike and recently enacted a program to financially support members on strike, driven largely by the possible DCTU strike. Under the new contract, IBEW members at the City make at least $10 an hour less than their private-sector counterparts, Bachman said.

In the Machinists union, 86% of members also voted against the contract. Machinists business representative Will Lukens said his members were ready and motivated to strike.

“It passed, but our group didn’t support it. We felt like there was more to it,” he said.

Martineau acknowledged some DCTU member unions are not in favor of the contract. 

“Certainly I think there are areas where it fell short, but I think that’s with every contract,” Martineau said. “You never get everything you wanted.”

He said the City’s inability to hire and retain enough skilled labor is the larger problem, and is driven by wages not being competitive with the open market. Martineau said the classification compensation review process is a step towards fixing that problem.

DCTU had been calling for 2% across-the-board wage increases in the first and second years of the contract, and that didn’t make it into the final City offer. 

The agreement brings to an end a nearly 20-month bargaining process which saw heightened tensions as it came close to a strike. DCTU unions filed two unfair labor practice complaints against the City, alleging that managers were interfering in the strike authorization vote, and that managers were threatening employees to dissuade them from striking. The City has not yet commented on those complaints, which are being reviewed by Oregon’s Employment Relations Board.

[NOTE: Posted Feb. 16, this is an expanded version of the story that originally appeared here Feb. 9.]




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