By COLIN STAUB
When the City of Portland finally presented its wage offer for a contract covering about 630 parks, environmental services and transportation workers, Laborers Local 483 found it underwhelming.
The City and Local 483 have been bargaining since March 2022, and workers have been without a contract since the end of June. Local 483 presented its full wage proposal by early October, but the City didn’t make a counter offer until a Dec. 20 mediation session. And after roughly nine months of bargaining, the two sides were far apart on wages.
The City proposed cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) of between 1% and 5%, tied to the consumer price index (which measures inflation). The City predicts that would amount to 5% in 2023 and 2024, 2.9% in 2025 and 2.3% in 2026. The City also proposed a 1% across-the-board raise on top of the COLA, retroactive to July, with another 1% raise in July 2023.
Local 483 responded with the same terms it proposed before: “uncapped” COLA increases that are tied to inflation, and 3.5% across-the-board raises in the first and second years of the contract.
Local 483 leaders say members aren’t willing to accept a wage proposal that doesn’t keep up with inflation, which is at 7.1% according to the most recent available data.
“The City’s offer would amount to a pay cut compared to the real cost of living,” the local wrote in an update to members.
After that meeting, Local 483 notified the Oregon Employment Relations Board that the two sides are at an impasse, setting in motion a timeline that could have workers on strike by early February. Under state laws for public employer union negotiations, both sides were required to submit estimates of what their proposals would cost within a week of the impasse, which they did on Dec. 29. Now, the two sides are in a mandatory 30-day “cooling off” period before the union can call a strike. The union would need to give notice of the strike 10 days in advance.
The Local 483 contract strife mirrors the City’s negotiations with the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) a year ago. Those negotiations led to a December 2021 impasse and a planned February 2022 strike, which was averted at the last minute by a contract agreement.