AFTER YEARS of arguing gave way to months of quiet bargaining, some of the city's worst-paid workers seem likely to receive increased pay and benefits this month.
The union Laborers' Local 483 has reached a tentative agreement with the City of Portland that will bring around 80 seasonal employees at Portland Parks and Recreation under union protections—including hourly wages of more than $15 an hour and health insurance. And that might be just the beginning. The union says it will press in coming months to bring something like 300 workers under its contract with the parks bureau.
The agreement (previewed by the Mercury in last week's issue) was hailed as "the right thing" to do by Parks Commissioner Amanda Fritz when it was announced July 17, but it's actually the product of years of comparative rancor. Local 483 filed a grievance in April 2013 claiming the city was giving its low-paid seasonal employees jobs that were supposed to be handled by union members. The city dug in its heels, but was finally forced to act by a binding ruling in early May.
The changes laid out in the agreement are likely, but still need to be approved by city council in a vote scheduled for July 29. Officials say the pay bumps and benefits for this first phase will cost roughly $2 million. It's unclear where, exactly, that money will come from at this point.
Even if Local 483 succeeds in getting hundreds more parks workers under its contract with the city, it'll still amount to a dent in the number of low-wage seasonal and part-time workers that prop the bureau up. As we've reported, nearly 2,000 city employees make less than $15 an hour, and 97 percent of those work for the parks bureau ["Starting at the Bottom," News, Jan 7]. DIRK VANDERHART
THE PUSH to get Oregon's minimum wage set at $15 is one step closer to reality.
The 15 Now Oregon group announced last week that they got the 1,000 signatures needed to qualify for a ballot title. The initiative now heads to the attorney general's office, which has until July 23 to present a draft of the ballot title.
After the ballot title process is complete, the group will need to collect another 86,376 valid signatures by July 1, 2016 to qualify for the November 2016 ballot.
Jamie Partridge, one of three chief petitioners and a member of the 15 Now movement, says he's confident that his group will collect enough signatures to get the initiative on the ballot.
"We expect the big business-led opposition will challenge the title no matter what, to prevent us from collecting signatures for as long as possible, but we're not particularly worried about that," Partridge says. "We're getting ready to press ahead with signature collection as soon as we can." SHELBY R. KING