Portland, trade unions reach agreement to avert looming municipal strike

By Rebecca Ellis (OPB)
Feb. 9, 2022 5:41 p.m. Updated: Feb. 9, 2022 9:08 p.m.

The strike over pay was scheduled to start Thursday morning

Portland City Hall

A file photo of Portland City Hall. City officials have reached an agreement with trade unions to avert a looming strike.

City of Portland

The head of the District Council of Trade Unions said Wednesday that union members approved the latest offer by Portland officials, averting a massive strike of city workers slated to begin Thursday morning.


City negotiators made their final offer to the coalition of labor groups last week; it included a 1.6% cost-of-living adjustment retroactive to July 1, 2021, and an additional 5% cost-of-living adjustment on July 1 of this year. The roughly 1,100 city workers that make up District Council of Trade Unions voted on the offer, and the final tally was announced Wednesday morning.

DCTU head Rob Martineau said that a majority of members voted to accept the city offer. The strike scheduled for 9 a.m. Thursday morning will not take place.

Fifty eight percent of voting members supported accepting the offer, according to a press release sent out by the local chapter of AFSCME, one of six unions represented by the umbrella coalition.

“We are greatly disappointed in the way the City conducted itself during bargaining, and our work to correct staffing issues will only ramp up upon completion of this contract,” the release stated.


The labor coalition had accused Portland officials last month of interfering with strike efforts and violating Oregon law, which bars public employers from interfering with workers’ rights to unionize. The group filed an unfair labor practice complaint alleging city supervisors polled union members on whether they would support a strike and told new members they could not participate.

Combined, the six trade unions comprising the District Council of Trade Unions represents about 16% of Portland’s city government workforce. A strike would have likely made a wide-reaching impact on basic city services.

The city and the labor coalition have been in talks over wages for nearly two years. The union has argued that the adjustments for cost of living proposed by city negotiators fell short compared to rising inflation.

For months, the city had been preparing for a strike, which was expected to strain bureaus across the city. The water, development services and police bureaus would have been among the hardest hit, each home to over 100 employees expected to walk off the job.

With nearly 300 represented employees, the water bureau had taken measures in recent days to soften the potential impacts of the strike. On Tuesday, the bureau transitioned from delivering water from the Bull Run Watershed to groundwater from the Columbia South Shore Well Field, a water source officials said they could continue to monitor even with a diminished staff.

City spokesperson Heather Hafer said the city and labor negotiators signed a tentative agreement Wednesday morning, which the council could approve in the next few weeks.

“This contract reflects engagement with both employees and community members, and our commitment to being responsive to what we heard,” City Council members wrote in a joint press release. “Most importantly, it reflects our shared goals for a thriving city, where everyone feels safe, heard, and valued by their government.”

The District Council of Trade Unions last went on strike in 2001. The walk-out was short-lived with workers returning to the job 45 minutes later.