As we go to press, the city employees won a new contract. Read more at workers.org
More than 600 Portland city employees, working without a contract since June, walked off of their jobs Feb. 2, because the city refused to pay them wages they need to survive Portland’s rising cost-of-living increases.
Workers are represented by the Laborers Union Local 483. Community supporters joined them in 24-hour picket lines in four locations: a wastewater treatment plant, a City park and two transportation sites: Portland’s automotive fleet and the railroad yard.
They are responsible for things like maintenance of city cars and trains, fixing sewage leaks, cleaning trash at city parks, clearing snow from streets, fixing park irrigation systems, planting trees and cleaning up biohazard waste dumped on park property. Passing cars waved and honked in support.
The last contract offer by the city would actually decrease workers’ current wages by not keeping up with Portland’s rising cost of living. The union is asking for 3.5% annual raises for the first two years and annual cost-of-living raises that reflect national inflation rates of 7.1%. The city is only offering a 1% annual raise and a 5% cost-of-living raise.
Some workers have to work second jobs to pay the rent.
A worker interviewed by Oregon Public Broadcast said, “I live in this community, and I pay the cost to live in this community. We need more money. It’s not greed, it’s survival. The pay cuts are increasing job turnover rate impacting the city’s ability to maintain skilled workers.” (tinyurl.com/bdzcyfnr)