City of Portland transportation, parks, and environmental services workers from Laborers’ Local 483 went back to work last night after a three-day strike that began last week. Staff from the City of Portland and Laborers’ 483 were in negotiations all day Saturday, finally reaching a tentative agreement on a new contract at 1:00 am on Sunday morning. This puts an end to 10 months of negotiations between the union and the city.
BikePortland covered multiple events leading up to the strike, starting back in September when a Portland Bureau of Transportation traffic crew member and Local 483 leader testified at a City Council meeting to ask for Council support in their contract negotiations. As deadlines for negotiations came and went, it looked more and more likely that a strike was imminent. Finally, union members announced their intent to strike at the end of last month, and picketing began last week.
The main issue for union members was that the City of Portland wasn’t paying them enough and was being stingy with cost-of-living adjustments (COLAs) that didn’t rise to employee needs in a time of historic inflation. Local 483 members didn’t believe the city’s claims that they didn’t have the money to meet union demands. During the bargaining process, BikePortland talked to union Field Representative and Organizer James O’Laughlen, who said the city claiming poverty was only going to make things more expensive down the line. He described the situation as a “loop of crisis” that was hurting city infrastructure.
In the end, the city came up from an initial offer of a 1% annual raise to a 3% annual raise (the union asked for 3.5%).
As we explored with maintenance staffers at the picket line last week, a prolonged strike would’ve had major infrastructure impacts, and Portlanders who rely on biking and active transportation to get around would be some of the first to feel those street-level effects. Luckily, they reached an agreement after only a few days.
“We look forward to reuniting with our colleagues and celebrating the ability to continue serving this community, together,” a joint statement from the City of Portland and Portland City Laborers Local 483 reads.
This was the City of Portland’s first strike in 20 years. Even though it only lasted three days, its impacts may be more long-lasting.
“During the coming days, city bureaus affected by the strike will be catching up from a backlog of work that was put on hold to prioritize essential services. They will also focus on building community among employees who remained at work and those returning from the strike,” a Sunday press release from the City of Portland states.
The new contract will be in place until 2026, and includes retroactive across-the-board wage increases and annual COLAs. The contract will still need to be approved by Local 483 and City Council votes before it can be finalized. You can read full details of the tentative agreement at the Laborers’ Local 483 website.