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Negotiations over a new contract break down after workers reject a 5% pay increase offer from the city.

COURTESY PHOTO: KOIN 6 NEWS - Portland city workers rally outside City Hall ahead of a strike.Portland city trade workers with the District Council of Trade Unions have put the city on notice of their intent to strike at 9 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 10.

They includes more than 11,000 city employees — ranging from workers in the water, transportation, police and finance bureaus — who will join the picket line in just under two weeks.

Legally, they must give the city 10 days notice of the strike. The announcement was made late Thursday, Jan. 27.

Over 86% of DCTU members voted to authorize a strike last week, as their contract-negotiation window with the city expired. After eleventh-hour meetings to reach an agreement, it's still "no deal" for a new contract.

DCTU is composed of multiple unions, including AFSCME Local 189, IBEW Local 48, Operating Engineers Local 701, Machinists District Lodge 24, Plumbers Local 290 and Painters and Allied Trades District Council 5.

Mike Elger has been a mechanic for the city of Portland for almost 30 years. He's the DCTU representative for the machinist union.

Elger told KOIN 6 News that DCTU has been trying to negotiate fair wages for workers for nearly two years — saying most employees in their union can't even afford to live in Portland.

"The median wage for the city of Portland member of the DCTU can't qualify for a home loan because of the debt-to-income ratio of the dollars to what it would cost them to purchase a home in the city limits of Portland," Elger said.

In the city's most recent contract offer, they wanted to provide a 5% cost of living increase next year. That was rejected by an overwhelming majority of members.

"We already know that the cost of living is going to be more than a 5% increase over this past year," DCTU member Chris Flanary said.

Flanary said Portland could see an interruption of services once the strike begins and hopes it's the wake-up call the City Council needs.

"We need City Council to listen to us when we say we need a fair contract," Flanary said.

"Portland continues to lose our most skilled workers to the competitive market, while our newest members cannot afford to live in the city they hope to serve," said Rob Martineau, president of DCTU and Oregon AFSCME Local 189.

"We implore city management to reflect on the needs of our community — a community made up in no small part by the employees we represent — and the services we provide while they consider this final step of our long negotiation," Martineau said

In a joint statement, city commissioners said "fair pay, safe working conditions and the opportunity to fully participate and benefit from our economy, community and our country: all working people deserve these basic things. City employees kept Portland running for almost two years in the face of a global pandemic, an economic recession and a long-overdue racial justice reckoning. City employees persevered through personal and professional challenges to help balance the City's budget. We remain incredibly grateful to our employees and all they bring to Portland."

The city told KOIN 6 they don't anticipate any interruptions to core services in the event of a strike.

KOIN 6 is a news partner of the Portland Tribune.

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