This morning Council will be voting on a one-year extension of the Portland Police Association contract. I support this extension and let me tell you why. The most important thing to me is that this process be as transparent as possible. Many of you know that the moment I decided to run for city council was the moment I went downtown to testify on the last contract and was shut out of City Hall. The last contract was bargained behind closed doors and without community process. Now, as a city commissioner I will not let a process like that be executed under my watch. This is also why I have advocated that the city hire an outside attorney and have had one of my staff members included on the city bargaining team. I am committed to the community’s participation in these negotiations.
We began bargaining with PPA on February 7, 2020. The Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act requires that parties bargain for at least 150 days, and our 150-day timeline would have expired on July 6, 2020. After being in negotiations for 150 days, either side can demand to go to mediation, which is a confidential process. This would mean that sessions would no longer be open to the public.
For this reason alone I would support an extension, which gets us back to the table in January 2021 when hopefully we will all be able to be in a room together in some capacity. This is important, because as part of our ground rules bargaining sessions have been agreed to not be recorded which would make using technologies like Zoom difficult. You can read the full ground rules here: https://beta.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-01/observer-rules.pdf. These same ground rules will be back in effect in January.
This extension sets six dates for negotiations, and the first one will be hosted by the City. The City and PPA alternate hosting each session, with City sessions being open to the public. We cannot mandate PPA sessions be open to the public. The extension also defers PPA members cost of living adjustments, similarly to other labor partners in the city as part of reducing costs to fill a budget gap created by the COVID crisis. Most importantly to me, the agreement allows the Portland Street Response pilot program to move forward with an expanded six teams.
I know many of you are interested in these negotiations, and I’m excited to work with you and our community as we enter this process. Earlier this year the Mayor and I hosted two community listening sessions, with a report produced by the Bureau of Human Resources. You can read the results of those listening sessions here: https://beta.portland.gov/sites/default/files/2020-02/community-conversation-on-ppa-contract-summary-report-2-21-2021.pdf. We also hosted a work session on police contracts, with presenters DeRay McKesson and Sam Sinyangway of Campaign Zero: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1niaq51Z2Uw.
As a city commissioner, please understand that my role is different than yours. I am both committed to change, and am an employer (as are my colleagues, including the Mayor), which means that I am also committed to not violating any laws under the Public Employees Collective Bargaining Act that could be viewed as an Unfair Labor Practice. In addition to issues of justice, labor relations is a complicated legal process and I will do everything I can to help provide transparency and education as we move forward.
Let’s keep working together to reimagine a future where all our communities feel safe.