Labor union calls Wheeler’s budget move a ‘political stunt’

Local 483 members on the picket line outside PBOT maintenance offices, February 2nd 2023. (Photo: Jonathan Maus/BikePortland)

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.

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Jonathan Maus (Publisher/Editor)

Founder of BikePortland (in 2005). Father of three. North Portlander. Basketball lover. Car owner and driver. If you have questions or feedback about this site or my work, feel free to contact me at @jonathan_maus on Twitter, via email at maus.jonathan@gmail.com, or phone/text at 503-706-8804. Also, if you read and appreciate this site, please become a supporter.

Subscribe
Notify of
guest

10 Comments
oldest
newest most voted
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Atreus
Atreus
10 months ago

All the city unions should go on strike to protest these last minute budget shenanigans.

Fred
Fred
10 months ago

Wheeler’s move really was cynical and craven, and he should be ashamed.

The real reason Portland residents and businesses are leaving is the homeless services tax, which only higher earners pay. Yet b/c they are high earners and b/c they run the businesses that used to be in Portland, they have a lot of options and they are choosing to leave. Wheeler needs to advocate for that tax to be removed, and then people might stay, or return. It’s got nothing to do with 40 cents for parking.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  Fred

“The real reason … is the homeless services tax”

Do you have any evidence for this statement?

There hasn’t been a correlation between tax increases on high-income people and an exodus previously and I suspect that most are moving for other reasons (e.g. housing affordability or household formation).

Juan Carlos Ordóñez, communications director at the Oregon Center for Public Policy, says he doubts that taxes are driving meaningful numbers of people out of Portland. Oregonians voted to raise taxes on people making $250,000 or more in 2010But from 2010 to 2017, the number of Oregonians with at least $1 million in annual income jumped 133%, a 2019 report showed, the biggest jump in any state during that period.

https://www.wweek.com/news/2023/02/01/they-left-portland-is-losing-some-of-its-biggest-fans/

Matt S.
Matt S.
10 months ago
Reply to  pierre delecto

Statistics like this prepandemic don’t have much sway anymore.

A friend of mine making over $250k moved to Bend, he cited high taxes, poor schools and the never ending homeless problem for why he was moving.

When your income is over a million in this city, you can live wherever you want regardless of household size and affordability.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  Matt S.

Statistics … don’t have much sway anymore.

A friend of mine….

From reason and logic to anecdotes and fear-mongering.

Randi J
Randi J
10 months ago
Reply to  Fred

And the Preschool tax is equally hated for its lack of effectiveness and accountability. That’s a tax that will increase even more. MUCH more of an impact than parking charges.

pierre delecto
pierre delecto
10 months ago
Reply to  Randi J

Preschool-for-all program has just started and is expanding as planned (see public record).

Homeowners gone wild: Ineffective!!!!

Atreus
Atreus
10 months ago
Reply to  Fred

The idea that high taxes and fees cause people to move has been debunked time and time again. There have been a lot of studies of what happens when the top marginal rate is increased in a city, and there’s really been no evidence that people flee to the suburbs, or to another state. Some of the cities in the country with the highest taxes are where the richest people live.

Matt S.
Matt S.
10 months ago
Reply to  Atreus

I’d rather live in Lake Oswego where taxes are higher. It’s about the perceived return on taxes. Right now in Portland, it doesn’t seem like you get much… Lake O, you get a lot. Clean downtown, good schools, good library, and nice parks. Feels very worth it.

John
John
10 months ago
Reply to  Fred

Businesses do business here because they can make money and/or hire people. As long as they can do that they’ll stay here. If they leave, it’s because they can’t do that. As others have pointed out, there is very little correlation between marginal tax rate and businesses leaving.

Residents will stay as long as the city is where they want to live, I don’t believe “high earners” are leaving because of taxes. If they’re leaving it’s because they can do things like work from home anywhere (and so there is no draw to any particular place).

As I’ve mentioned before, and this is more a hypothesis that I haven’t had time to research, I think people are leaving through attrition more than anything else. Basically people come and go all the time, not just recently. But because housing prices have stayed high rather than dropping due to the raised interest rate, it’s becoming increasingly hard to afford a house here. So when people leave, they’re not being replaced. At least not as much. People have brought up Seattle as a counter, but I think that’s just a bigger, more attractive city to wealthy people, plus having some very “high earner”-heavy employers there. More than Portland. I don’t know any big high paying companies based in Portland (at least in my field, software). That doesn’t mean Portland isn’t a desirable place to live, just not a place anyone needs to move to for work, so the high housing prices plus high interest rates make it less attractive.

In other words, I think it’s less that people are being driven out of the city and more that people just aren’t moving here as much as they used to.

Add to that the not insignificant homelessness crisis here and its even further overblown reputation to people who don’t live here as icing on the cake.