Hard Line Bargaining Tactics at the Portland Housing Bureau

afscme logo revisedAfter five months of bargaining with the City over the successor collective bargaining agreement at the Portland Housing Bureau, we have only one tentatively agreed to Article. The City has offered nothing but “supposals” (a word only existing in the City of Portland’s lexicon referring to proposals that the City believes are non-binding) since March. The absurdity reached a pentacle at the most recent bargaining session when their chief spokesperson, Shianne Scott, offered the Union a choice between a supposed “supposal” including a 90-10 split on health insurance, or going to mediation. We chose the latter, and on Wednesday, June 17th the City and Union held the first mediated bargaining session.

The Union team sought to narrow the scope of dispute by accepting the City’s proposal’s on seven Articles. We also asked that the City provided us with a copy of their most recent proposal due to the “supposal” non-sense. Regardless of the questionable legality of such “supposals” we thought it would be in our best interests to have a mutual understanding of what the City is actually proposing.

The City responded by giving us a health care proposal containing an 85-15 premium split. The mediator explained that the City wanted to “see where we were at” on the health care proposal. We spent some time drafting a counter proposal, that removed the reference to an 85-15 split and simply required that the PHB contract would be amended to reflect the premium split agreed to under the DCTU contract. We had no way to print the document in the room we were provided, so we had to e-mail a copy to Labor Relations for printing. However, we specifically requested that they wait to review the proposal until we had time to discuss it.

Our intent was to explain the importance of getting buy in from the other City Unions, and crafting a wellness plan provides an excellent opportunity to work cooperatively and develop a proposal that benefits both management and the employees. A plan with buy in at all levels is more likely to deliver the maximum amount of savings. Unfortunately, the City did not honor our request to discuss the offer, and refused a face to face meeting. Instead, they instructed the mediator to inform us that their offer was a “take it or leave it” offer. They further demanded that we drop all of our requests for additional items. Our requests were not unreasonable: we are asking that the salaried employees at the Housing Bureau be treated like all other salaried employees, and that the City adopt a language differential.

We broke for the day, disappointed that the City is engaging in such hard bargaining tactics with a bargaining unit that is truly interested in having a cooperative relationship. It has become obvious that the City has no interest in changing the relationship with Labor. They even have some success bullying the smallest and newest bargaining unit. But the message they are sending is being heard loud and clear by the rest of Local 189, and the DCTU.