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Hundreds of Portland parks, wastewater, transportation workers go on strike

Portland workers represented by Laborers' Local 483 began their strike on Thursday after no agreement was reached during a mediation session Wednesday.

PORTLAND, Ore. — More than 600 members of Laborers International Union of North America Local 483 went on strike at midnight Thursday after no agreement was reached with the City of Portland during Wednesday's mediation session, according to city officials. 

The city said it's moving forward with contingency plans, but said on Thursday that so far essential services are not affected. The state of emergency declaration issued last Thursday by Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler allows the city to hire or re-allocate staff to ensure "continuity of services" as the workers go on strike. 

LiUNA Laborers' Local 483 shared a photo on Instagram early Thursday morning showing members holding signs. The caption said, "L483 members were welcomed to the picket line as they walked off the job to start the Portland City Laborers strike at midnight."

Negotiations between union representatives and the city have gone on for about 10 months, the union said. They represent workers in Portland's wastewater treatment, pollution testing, street maintenance and park ranger services. 

"They are the workers who showed up, in person, throughout the pandemic to keep our City running," the union said in a statement. "They delayed negotiating a new contract for a year to accommodate the City of Portland in its time of need. In response, City decision makers have treated their safety and financial security as a low priority." 

On Jan. 24, city workers delivered a notice of the intent to strike to the city. Which applied to more than 600 city employees under the "Portland City Laborers" contract.

RELATED: Hundreds of Portland parks, wastewater, transportation workers to strike next week

"It's going to be a huge challenge for the city to find people that can replicate the work our folks do," said James O'Laughlen, a former wastewater operator who's now working as a field representative for the union. "Things break, all the catastrophic failures that we face routinely that get addressed, they're not going to be fixed. Sewer lines, pump stations, city infrastructure, crises in the parks."  

On Thursday striking workers picketed at three locations in the city, including the parks and recreation department Mt. Tabor maintenance yard on Southeast Division Street.  Dozens lined the sidewalk, chanting with picket signs.

Credit: Tim Gordon, KGW

"We're striking for fair wages and compensation, you know the pandemic really opened the eyes and with inflation, we're fighting for what's fair," said Kirsten Provenzano, a horticulturalist with Portland Parks and Recreation.

The city said it is offering a 12% wage increase by July, with half of that retroactive to 2022. The increase includes a 5% cost-of-living increase for each year. 

However, the union wants the city to remove the annual cap of 5% for cost-of-living increases. 

"The city itself doesn’t have a 5% cap, the cost of living is the cost of living and we all know that inflation's a thing; we all pay at the pump, we all pay at the grocery store, we all know what a dozen egg go for," said Scott Morris, who works for Portland Parks and Recreation as a carpenter.

The city reports it's also offering healthcare improvements, increased hours for seasonal workers and other concessions.

"Citywide planning efforts are being finalized and critical operational needs, personnel coverage, resources, and contingency plans have been identified with to ensure essential services that Portlanders rely on everyday are minimally disrupted for the duration of a strike," the city said in a statement Wednesday. "More details on the city service levels Portlanders can expect during the workforce disruption are expected to be announced on Thursday."

This is a developing story and will be updated as more information becomes available.  

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