Portland workers end strike after reaching tentative agreement with city

By April Ehrlich (OPB)
PORTLAND, Ore. Feb. 5, 2023 4:37 p.m. Updated: Feb. 6, 2023 2:09 a.m.

A strike among Portland city workers ended after they reached a tentative agreement with the city Saturday.

The agreement came after 12 hours of mediation between the city and workers represented by Laborers Local 483. It remains tentative until the Portland City Council approves it.


More than 600 Portland workers went on strike early Thursday after nearly a year of negotiations broke down over wages. They had been without a contract since June.

Local 483 includes people responsible for fixing sewage leaks, cleaning trash at city parks, and clearing streets of ice and snow, among other tasks.


“I think there’s a lot of work yet to be done, but this is a great foundation to build upon for our membership and really for working standards in the whole Portland community,” said Local 483 field representative James O’Laughlen.

This was Portland’s first strike among city workers in two decades. Portland leaders had been preparing to use independent contractors if the strike lasted longer.

“We’re grateful that we were able to maintain the essential services Portlanders rely on every day,” said human resources officer Cathy Bless in a statement.

The new four-year contract would include 3% annual raise for the first year, retroactive to July 2022, in addition to a cost-of-living adjustment capped at 5%. The second year includes another 5% cost-of-living adjustment, then there will be payment adjustments based on the federal consumer price index for the remaining two years.

“If we did not get investment of this kind, I think we were going to see a mass exodus of people from this contract,” O’Laughlen said. “It’s hard to live in this community financially.”

Union workers originally pushed for a 3.5% annual raise and an uncapped 5% cost-of-living adjustment, meaning their wages would increase even when national inflation rates exceeded 5% — something that has been happening in recent months. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics calculated inflation rates at around 6.5% in December, the most recent data available.

Portland leaders had said they couldn’t afford the wage increases union negotiators were seeking, and instead originally offered a 1% annual raise and a capped 5% cost-of-living raise annually for the first two years.