The majority of city employees represented by the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) have voted to authorize a strike amid a standstill over contract negotiations with the city.
“After nearly two years working through a global pandemic, and facing unprecedented challenges, it’s time the City recognizes the sacrifices our members make day in and day out," said DCTU President Rob Martineau in a Thursday press release.
DCTU is a conglomeration of several unions representing city staff, including AFSCME Local 189, IBEW Local 48, Plumbers Local 290, Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5, Machinists District Lodge 24, Auto Mechanics District Lodge 24, and Operating Engineers Local 701. DCTU's 1,200 members work in nearly all city departments, and are employed as administrative staff, building inspectors, water filtration experts, electricians, police record keepers, accountants, and others.
The majority of DCTU members work for Portland Water Bureau, Portland Bureau of Transportation, Development Services, and Portland Police Bureau (as non-sworn staff).
DCTU has been negotiating its current contract with the city for two years, but reached an impasse in December after neither side could reach agreement over wage increases.
The city has offered DCTU a 1.6 percent cost of living raise, which would be paid out retroactively to July 1, 2021 and a 5 percent cost of living raise to go into effect on July 1, 2022. DCTU has pushed back on this proposal, arguing that this increase isn't consistent with the national inflation rate, which rose by more than 6 percent over the last year. The city has also rejected DCTU's ask to create a pay increase scale based on workers' tenure at the city to reward longevity and improve staff retention.
This impasse is what prompted the past week's strike authorization vote. According to Martineau, 91 percent of DCTU's members cast ballots in the past week's vote, and 86 percent of those voters supported the strike. This vote does not prompt an immediate strike of city staff, but empowers the DCTU bargaining team to announce a strike if the city doesn't budge on its contract requests.
The union must give the city a 10-day notice before striking.
Earlier this week, DCTU filed a complaint against the city with the state's Employee Relations Board, accusing city managers of giving union members false information about the vote in an attempt to undermine the process.
Portland City Commissioners, including Mayor Ted Wheeler, released a statement Thursday in response to the vote.
"Fair pay, safe working conditions, and the opportunity to fully participate and benefit from our economy, community, and our country: all working people deserve these basic things," the statement reads. "City employees kept Portland running for almost two years in the face of a global pandemic, an economic recession, and a long-overdue racial justice reckoning. City employees persevered through personal and professional challenges to help balance the City’s budget. We remain incredibly grateful to our employees and all they bring to Portland."