Hundreds of Portland city workers plan to strike; city declares emergency

Published: Jan. 30, 2023 at 5:38 PM PST
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PORTLAND Ore. (KPTV) - Hundreds of Portland city workers are planning to strike this week after failing to reach an agreement with the city after months of negotiations.

The mayor’s office declared an emergency to prepare for the strike, which would impact many essential services across Portland.

A union representative said the strike is planned to kick off at midnight on Thursday.

A PBOT location on North Kerby will be just one of the many operations impacted.

Laborers’ Local 483 summed up 10 months of negotiations with the City of Portland.

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“Disrespect, delay, and stonewalling,” James O’Laughlen, a representative for Laborers’ Local 483, said.

He said the union represents workers across six city bureaus.

“Our 600+ members are a huge percentage of the Bureau of Environmental Services and the Bureau of Transportation, and the Parks department,” O’Laughlen said.

Members said they’re preparing to kick off the strike on Thursday, and if they do, the impacts will be seen around the city.

“You can see raw sewage in the streets, rivers,” O’Laughlen said. “Infrastructure damage that occurs without our people there to prevent it.” “Trash, feces, hypodermics overflowing. Hazardous environments in the parks with our parks rangers not there.”

They said the latest bargaining failed to meet workers’ basic needs.

“The city is offering an inflation-based pay cut.,” O’Laughlen said. “The figures they put together failed to meet the Bureau of Labor Statistics increases in the cost of living for this region over the past two years.”

And said the biggest pushback from the city is financial.

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“They say they can’t afford it, despite every six months, the city finding tens of millions of dollars for whatever project the politicians are interested in,” O’Laughlen said.

In the city’s emergency declaration in preparation for the work stoppage, Mayor Ted Wheeler said it “must take steps to ensure continuity of services.”

The question of if and how long this strike will last? The union says it’s up to the city.

“It’s really on city decision-makers when they’re going to find the capacity to do the right thing.”

The city’s emergency declaration includes hiring vendors and contractors to support “essential services to the public.”

FOX 12 has reached out to the mayor’s office for comment and haven’t heard back.