Portland recreation dispute near resolution


Late last year, the City of Portland and Laborers Local 483 ratified a contract covering recreation coordinators and leaders, who work on City-sponsored events, classes and other activities.

But shortly after the contract was implemented, workers began noticing problems on their paychecks. The contract added new “steps” in the wage scale. Where workers used to reach top pay at three years of service, the new contract included fourth- and fifth-year steps. Local 483 business manager Ryan Sotomayor said the union bargaining team understood that workers would be placed according to their years of service. For instance, a worker with 10 years of service would go to the top of the pay scale, the fifth-year step.

But when workers began receiving paychecks after the new contract, longtime workers were simply advanced to the next step up, rather than to the top of the pay scale. Under the previous example, the 10-year worker would be placed in the fourth step rather than the fifth. For some workers, it amounted to a change in pay that didn’t even meet the negotiated 5% cost-of-living adjustment. Other workers were seemingly placed in the wrong job classification. Sotomayor says it affected every full-time worker under the contract. The Recreation unit includes 120 full-time workers and about 600 part-time seasonal workers.

Local 483 began an email campaign, asking workers and supporters to write to Portland Parks and Recreation bureau administrators and Portland City Council members about the problem. Those emails soon spurred a meeting between Local 483 and the City’s labor relations department. On Jan. 25, City human resources representatives told Local 483 it’s City policy to only advance workers one step rather than to where their years of service would put them. Local 483 said that was clearly not the understanding in the bargaining sessions when the new steps were added. 

Both parties agreed to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) indicating workers will be placed in steps according to years of service, as union reps understood in bargaining. The MOU wasn’t drafted by press time, but Sotomayor says the issue could be resolved in the next week or two.      


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