Mayor Charlie Hales' first proposed budget has pitted him against the public-safety unions of the fire and police bureaus, which are taking the brunt of the personnel cuts.
Now another safety patrol is asking Hales to unionize: the park rangers.
NW Labor Press reported this week that the city's 15 park rangers met with Hales in City Hall in March to ask for voluntary recognition of their union as part of Local Laborers 483.
The labor paper reports:
They’re “good will ambassadors” for the City of Portland. Wearing a uniform and a badge and working in pairs, they keep parks safe and clean, and serve as the front line of outreach to the homeless. Yet most of the City’s park rangers make $11 an hour, have no benefits, and get laid off after nine months. Could they please have a union now? That was the message a group of park rangers presented in a March 29 meeting with Mayor Charlie Hales.
The park rangers program was started in 2011 by City Commissioner Nick Fish, who decided to replace the Portland Business Alliance-hired security guards in city parks. Since rangers started working last spring, the program has been widely hailed as a success. (Even though the rangers lost to Occupy Portland in softball.)
But the rangers don't feel that goodwill has been returned to them by the city—11 of the 15 rangers are seasonal, with their contracts ending after 1,400 hours. And they don't like their pay.
"Eleven dollars an hour. Honestly, it’s insulting,” ranger Sam Sachs told NW Labor News.
Hales told the rangers he supports their organizing, but they would need to go through the standard state process to join Local Laborers 483.
The timing of the request may prove awkward: As The Oregonian reported today, Hales is seeking to break up the police commanding officers' union.