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'These folks are some of the hardest working people in the city': Portland City Laborers enter Day 3 of 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. — Hundreds of workers for the City of Portland — members of Laborers International Union of North America Local 483 — are still on strike as of Saturday night. The union first went on strike at midnight Thursday after no agreement was reached with the city during Wednesday's mediation session, according to city officials.  

On Saturday, striking workers and supporters picketed outside the Wastewater Treatment Plant on North Columbia Boulevard. Drivers honked their horns, as the crowd held up signs throughout the day. 

"These folks are some of the hardest working people in the city," said retired business manager for the union, Richard Beetle, "they're the people who maintain your streets. They're the people who maintain your parks. They clean your water to make sure that that river runs clean."

Earlier this week, Mayor Ted Wheeler issued a statement, writing: 

"We have received reports of illegal and sometimes violent activity in the beginning hours of the strike by Portland City Laborers. While I support the rights of employees to exercise their right to strike legally, aggressive behavior and intimidation of any form is absolutely unacceptable."

A spokesperson for the city told KGW on Saturday that since the beginning of the strike, there have been other recent incidents, but did not go into detail. 

Union representatives dispute the city's claims, stating: 

"While we have heard rumors, we know of none which have been substantiated. Our union is committed to conducting peaceful, legal protests and that is what we have seen from our members. We encourage members of the public to come out to our pickets to see for themselves and support the people who make this City work."

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.

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. 

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