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Friday, March 28, 2014

Labor Unions, a Week after Strike Vote, Strike Tentative Deal with City

Posted by Denis C. Theriault on Fri, Mar 28, 2014 at 4:14 PM

The District Council of Trade Unions—seven unions representing some 1,600 frontline workers for the city of Portland—sent a powerful message this winter about their distaste for a proposed new contract some two years in the making, a contract many members felt didn't do enough to keep the city from outsourcing their jobs.

First, member unions voted against a tentative pact in January—a reversal that came right before a city council vote to ratify the deal. Then, after the city doubled down by declaring an impasse, those same unions voted overwhelmingly last week, one by one, to threaten a strike.

And now? Last night, after a marathon mediation session that ran until almost midnight, helped by the pressure to avoid a stroke vote, the two sides declared victory again—tentatively—with talk of a new deal. The Oregonian first reported the news earlier today, and it was confirmed later this afternoon in a statement from Mayor Charlie Hales' office.

These were difficult, hard-fought negotiations, no doubt about it," Mayor Charlie Hales said. "But they show that people of good faith and intention can join together to reach an agreement that is fair and equitable for our city employees and all Portland residents."

“This has been, without a doubt, the most difficult set of negotiations I have ever been through,” said Rob Wheaton, DCTU Chief Spokesperson. “The DCTU appreciates the leadership of the mayor and his role in making an agreement possible.”

The language over outsourcing in the four-year deal was the main sticking point among several, union leadership said. This was made clear again in a letter sent this month in a letter to members:

We were able to resolve most issues with the one notable exception in Article 6: they still want to be able to contract out our work if they fail to provide the skills or the equipment for us to do it ourselves. This frees the City management team to participate in creative budgeting each year.

We continue to receive and provide offers between the City and the DCTU. However, we need to preserve our protections for contracting out our work, and the City needs to respect that need.

It's unclear how the new tentative agreement treats potential outsourcing and whether members, who voted against the last tentative deal after their negotiators signed off on it, will be satisfied this time or not.

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