By MALLORY GRUBEN
Call it déjà vu: Workers in the City of Portland Auditor’s Office reached tentative agreement on their first contract.
But it was the second tentative agreement AFSCME Local 189 signed for about 20 workers in the auditor’s office. The first — an agreement forged between Auditor Simone Rede and the union — was abandoned because Portland City Council disputed Rede’s authority to lead bargaining.
Union leaders and Rede say they are optimistic the new agreement can earn city council’s approval, because City HR led bargaining this time around, under an interagency agreement between Rede and HR. Rede had final approval over any terms contained in the tentative agreement, and in most places, it is similar to the proposal she made in February.
“We had gotten (to tentative agreement) already, so I think that provided a good blueprint,” Rede told the Labor Press. “I also think having the clear responsibilities of what we will and won’t participate in as a bargaining team … gave me assurance we could let HR lead, and they knew it was a really urgent matter to address.”
The agreement gives 5% cost of living raises retroactive to July 1, 2022, establishes a pay scale, and provides step increases retroactive to July 1, 2022, for workers who would have received a pay bump if the wage scale had been in place.
However, $4,000 of bonuses included in the February agreement were dropped. In their place, the new agreement has a one-time $7,000 settlement payment to resolve two unfair labor practice complaints, including a grievance over the unilateral rollout of a return to work policy.
Overall, the new agreement is better for workers, said Local 189 President Rob Martineau.
“Simone has been a key advocate in helping us get to this agreement,” he said.
Rede called the tentative agreement a “huge milestone” for her office that she wished had happened sooner.
“It was hard to understand and to watch from the outside before my term began why this was taking so long,” she said. “I’m really hopeful that having this in place means we can all move forward together, under my leadership, and with their needs being met as employees.”
Portland City Council was set to vote on the agreement March 31, after this issue went to press. If it passes as expected, it will close a more than two year saga of challenges by city leaders and managers to efforts by auditor’s office employees to unionize and get a first contract.
Workers in the auditor’s office first filed for a union in March 2021, but then-Auditor Mary Hull Caballero filed legal objections and delayed the electhough until July 1 that year. Local 189 started bargaining in October 2021 but reached an impasse until Rede took office in January. She swiftly reached agreement with the union but later handed negotiations to City HR, in an attempt to resolve a political disagreement over who should lead bargaining.