Members of the District Council of Trade Unions last night rejected a new contract with the City of Portland—repudiating a bargain reached by city officials and their own leadership after a year of negotiations.
"I have not quite wrapped my head around what happened here," says Rob Wheaton, the DCTU's chief negotiator.
The DCTU represents more than 1,600 city workers, ranging from janitorial employees to police staff. (It also includes most of the workers who cleared the city's roads of snow and ice last weekend.)
For much of last year, negotiators from the union coalition clashed with the city over contract language that would let the city contract out jobs the unions say should go to its members.
The union coalition reached a tentative agreement with the city in January, but the deal had to be approved by union members last night. That didn't happen.
UPDATE, 2:30 pm: AFSCME Local 189, one of seven unions represented by the coalition, has posted the vote count.
The votes have been tallied and the membership has rejected the proposed contract. The tally was 462 yes and 635 no. Unfortunately the City is not required to go back to the table and will possibly implement their last best offer since a strike authorization was not included in the vote.
Rob Wheaton, DCTU's chief negotiator, tells WW he'll meet Thursday with members of all seven unions to see why the deal failed to pass muster.
"The members said it wasn't good enough for them," Wheaton says. "We need to sit down with my bargaining team and see what's the sticking point here. I don't really have any good answers for you at this point."
Wheaton says he's committed to a negotiated settlement—but members could vote to strike.
"No one wants to strike," he says. "They want a decent contract. They'll strike if they have to."
Mayor Charlie Hales' spokesman Dana Haynes says the mayor's office was surprised by the vote, since Wheaton had praised the deal in January.
"Very interesting," Haynes says. "Very odd. We, while surprised and disappointed, are waiting to see what the next step is."