Portland city workers warn: ‘Don’t force a strike’

Portland, Oregon

Workers at Portland’s Bureau of Development Services have been working without a contract for a year and a half. On Feb. 5, they held a rally and march of over 150 workers to demand that bosses and City Council agree to provide fair wages and respectful working conditions. 

Portland city workers march for a decent contract, Feb. 5.  WW Photo: Lyn Neeley

The District Council of Trade Unions, a coalition of six city unions representing 1,200 city workers, says they plan to strike on Feb. 10 unless a decent contract is offered. Portland City Council refuses to negotiate any further. Their “last-and-final offer” leaves workers with a 5% wage cut, with the rising cost of living, and threatens to take away essential worker protections.

At the rally Chris Flanary, a housing programing specialist, said the strike will stop all housing development that is vitally needed in Portland. She shared the sentiments of the workers who say they deserve respect and dignity on the job. 

Rob Martineau, a water operations mechanic, maintains Portland’s 150-year-old water system. He said 20 crews provide Portlanders with life-sustaining water; and if they go on strike, the city will be without people to do that job. Like Flanary, Martineau said the people he works with feel disregarded and devalued by city management. They come to work every day to do their job well and just want to be able to afford to live and work in the city they serve.

“We demand essential wages for essential workers!” workers chanted.

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