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Portland city workers take initial step toward strike

January 21, 2022 GMT

PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) — More than 1,100 municipal trade workers may strike as Portland leaders and a coalition of public employee unions remain at an impasse on a new contract agreement.

Members of the District Council of Trade Unions (DCTU) voted to authorize a strike after overwhelmingly rejecting the city’s latest offer of an annual pay bump and four-figure bonus, The Oregonian/OregonLive reported.

The decision announced Thursday comes weeks after the union’s bargaining team declared the impasse. It gives workers the ability to officially go on strike 10 days after the union gives notice to the city, a move that could threaten basic services across Portland.

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“After nearly two years working through a global pandemic, and facing unprecedented challenges, it’s time the city recognizes the sacrifices our members make day in and day out,” said Rob Martineau, the coalition’s president and an operations mechanic with the Portland Water Bureau.

The District Council of Trade Unions’ members make up about 16% of the city’s workforce. The members, who belong to six smaller unions, include employees from maintenance workers, to building inspectors and clerical staff.

A new contract has eluded city and union bargaining teams for more than a year.

The median salary of employees represented by the District Council of Trade Unions is $35.14 per hour or $73,091 annually, according to estimates provided by Portland’s human resources bureau.

The city’s current offer includes a 1.6% cost-of-living adjustment retroactive to last July and another 5% increase beginning next fiscal year. All members would receive a $3,000 bonus.

Martineau on Thursday said 86% of union members voted not to accept it.

“We respect the right of union members to strike, and we will continue to work with DCTU in hopes of coming to an agreement on the outstanding issues,” Heather Hafer, a spokeswoman with the Office of Management and Finance, said.

The last time members of the coalition walked off their jobs in Portland was 2001. The strike lasted for 45 minutes before the city and the union reached an agreement.