Top Stories 2023

The Biggest Portland Transportation News of 2023

PBOT struggles, Rose Quarter snags, and deadly crashes marked a busy year in Portland transportation.

The Biggest Portland City Hall News of 2023

This year, the city managed to help and harm the unhoused, while leaning on pre-pandemic work models to try to revitalize downtown.

The Biggest Portland Labor News of 2023

Move over "hot labor summer." 2023 was a hot labor year for Portland workers.

Portland's Top VILLAINS for 2023—Ranked!

Portland's villains were especially busy this year... here's who caused the most trouble.

The Biggest Portland Police News of 2023

Big police settlements, a new top cop, and whatever happened to oversight? All that and more in the biggest police stories of 2023!

The Biggest Portland Environmental News of 2023

Oil company lawsuits, asbestos rain, and Rubio disappoints activists: A lot happened in 2023's environmental news.

The biggest labor news of the year, by far: The Portland Public Schools teachers' strike

It was nearly a complete "no-school November" for Portland Public Schools students, whose teachers went on strike on November 1 and didn't return until November 27. The month was marked by conflict between the Portland Association of Teachers union and the school district, who stood at either side of a (very) wide gulf when it came to the terms of a contract agreement. Teachers in the union teamed up with Portland-area state legislators, who said the district needed to manage their state-allocated money better. Other teachers' union allies included construction workers working on the Benson High School remodel, who walked off the job in support of the striking educators

The strike ultimately brought attention to the murky, (arguably) messed-up way Oregon funds its public schools, and teachers say they're happy with the results of the contract agreement. All's well that ends well? Not necessarily: Members of other PPS unions— including cafeteria workers, custodians, administrative assistants, and paraeducators— are still in contract negotiations with the district, and things are tense. Hopefully, these crucial school workers will get what they deserve in the final contract, too. 

Hundreds of city operations workers went on strike. 

If an unprecedented teachers' strike wasn't enough, let's not forget about the also-extraordinary city maintenance and operations work stoppage that took place back at the beginning of the year. Members of the Portland City Laborers union, which represents workers who maintain the streets, handle wastewater, and keep parks in order (among other things), went on strike on February 2 to put pressure on the city to pay these essential workers a living wage. 

The strike only lasted three days, but brought attention to how important these maintenance and operations workers are to maintaining Portland's title as "the city that works." If the city doesn't pay their workers enough to afford the rising costs of living in Portland, they'll choose to work in the private sector instead and earn much higher wages. The city and its residents can't afford that. Without maintenance and operations workers, we'd be dealing with significantly more potholes, perpetually icy streets in the winter, piles of downed trees blocking street passage, etc. Happy municipal workers, happy life. That's how the saying goes, right?

It was a "hot labor summer" for workers across many sectors. 

For many involved in the local labor scene, the summer of 2023 was quite the eventful time. Employees at companies including Doe Donuts, Fang! Pet & Garden Supply and Salty’s Pet Supply (owned by the same person), Buffalo Exchange, and more voted to unionize. Some received voluntary recognition from their employers while others were in for a fight

Longstanding unions, including those representing employees at Powell's Books, Oregon Health and Science University, Portland State University, and Burgerville, struggled in bargaining sessions with their employers. Many of these unions held rallies and walkouts, garnering community support in the case of a potential strike. 

Some referred to all this warm weather union action as "hot labor summer," but as more unions continue to form, it's clear the movement isn't limited to just a season. 

Employees at local nonprofits spoke up against their employers.

Workers at local nonprofits also called attention to poor labor practices in their workplaces this year. Portland nonprofits experiencing labor crises included the Community Alliance of Tenants (CAT), a renter advocacy organization that effectively shut down in July after laying off the vast majority of its staff. Some digging into CAT showed blatant misuse of funds had been happening for a long time, only getting worse after the nonprofit decided to hire expensive union-busting attorneys to go after workers who unionized at the organization. 

Workers at the Portland Japanese Garden also reported poor treatment from their bosses. Leaders at the serene garden haven't been inclined to listen to their staff about racial justice issues and don't seem in a rush to pay customer service staff much more than minimum wage. Meanwhile, the CEO of the garden takes home a very large annual salary with huge bonuses, and travels all over the world to promote the ideals of the nonprofit. Front-facing staff say: Take care of your essential staff here at home, first.