After six months of virtual negotiations over its contract with the city, Portland's union representing rank-and-file officers has asked to move the incomplete conversation into private mediation.
The announcement, made by Portland Police Association (PPA) Monday morning, isn't an entirely unexpected move: State labor law allows parties engaged in contract negotiations to request mediation after 150 days of collective bargaining. PPA and the City of Portland reached that 150-day mark on June 12, after meeting a total of 11 times to hash out the future contract. Only half of those meetings have been made available for public viewing. All of the meetings conducted by a state-selected mediator will be closed to the public.
PPA Director Daryl Turner, a former Portland Police Bureau officer, said his team chose to request mediation out of concern that the city isn't taking the union's need seriously.
"Last year, [the PPA] moved quickly to provide the City of Portland with budget relief given the economic impact of COVID-19," said Turner in a press release. "We have not seen the same sense of urgency in 2021 from the City to address the catastrophic recruiting and retention issues facing our police ranks."
The union and city have clashed over police oversight policies, mandatory anti-bias training, and a new discipline guide for officers who break PPB's rules of conduct. The two parties have so far passed "tentative agreements"—documents signaling their agreement on a contract change—on 30 of the contract's 68 articles. The two sides aren't required to pass tentative agreements on all 68 articles before wrapping up negotiations, but several discussions referring to currently untouched articles remain unresolved.
After the state selects a mediator, the city and the PPA must remain in mediation for at least 15 days. If the two parties cannot reach a mediated conclusion to the negations by that point, either side can claim an "impasse," thus forcing the process into arbitration.
On Monday, Turner said the PPA's bargaining team is looking forward to the mediation process resulting in a "mutually agreeable contract."
"The City should understand the need to reach finality on a new contract," said Turner. "Pressure breeds progress and results."
The city isn't thrilled by the decision. In a press statement shared later Monday morning, the city's bargaining team wrote: "The City is disappointed that bargaining, including open bargaining, will no longer continue, as we believe the bargaining process was working well."