Part of the reason City of Portland bureau leaders were dismayed by the eleventh-hour move from Mayor Ted Wheeler to freeze planned fee increases was because they needed the money to pay workers. And the memories of the strike back in February is still fresh in their minds.
Now the same union that organized a four-day work stoppage is on the offensive once again. Laborers Local 483 (an affiliate of Laborers International Union of North America (LiUNA)), says Wheeler’s move to reduce already-planned and budgeted for fee increases from the bureau of transportation, water and environmental services “threaten to layoff dozens of union-represented workers.”
“The services that Portlanders rely on, whether they’re long-overdue road improvements, capital projects, or wastewater treatment services – the quality of those services rely on our members,” said Laborers’ Local 483 Field Representative James O’Laughlen in a statement released Monday. “Earlier this year, our union went on strike for important economic recognition of our members’ service throughout COVID. Many of our members have still not received full payment for those negotiated improvements. Now, before the full benefits of what these members won are even realized, the Mayor’s rushed action to reduce rates threatens to lay off those very workers.”
During a Portland City Council work session May 12th bureau directors said one reason the increases were so vital was that they would help pay for recently agreed-to collective bargaining agreements with Local 483. “It doesn’t uphold the City’s end of our negotiated agreements,” said Local 483’s Business Manager Ryan Sotomayor. “Our bargained victory and its long-delayed implementation by the City impacts the integrity of hundreds of working families, whose economic victories undeniably set a precedent for all other workers in our city.”
Local 483 is fighting Wheeler’s move by calling it a “penny-wise pound-foolish misstep” and “political theater”. So far 672 people have participated in the campaign by sending an email to City Council members. They also plan to testify at the City Council meeting Wednesday.
Here’s a snip from their campaign website:
Together, we say NO.
- NO to the penny-wise and pound-foolish missteps of Mayor Wheeler.
- NO to political theater.
- NO to short-sighted band aids on issues that the Mayor has long ignored until his re-election came into focus.
- NO to rate reductions that do nothing for working Portlanders and those on fixed incomes – only businesses.
- NO to reductions that will cost Portland residents more in the long-term.
- NO to continued disrespect of Portland City Laborers
NO COSTLY RATE REDUCTIONS – NO LAYOFFS – NO DISRESPECT
City Council voted 4-1 in favor of Wheeler’s $7.1 billion budget last week, with Commissioner Mingus Mapps — whose portfolio includes all three bureaus with frozen fee increases — the sole no vote. Now the City Budget Office will amend the budget with the changes passed on Wednesday and there will be a final budget adoption hearing at Council June 14th.