It's the end of the world as we know it

  • Posted on: 19 February 2007
  • By: Amanda Fritz

... and I feel fine. R.E.M., 1987

Run for your lives! No, it's not the fact that most Portlanders are ill-prepared for the catastrophic earthquake likely to come our way relatively soon. Not recent reports that the cost of that new bridge over the mighty Columbia may go as high as $6 billion. Not even commentary on the dire likelihood that Portland will remain such a completely horrible place to live, work, and play, if voters in May don't pass the long-overdue and absolutely necessary change to a Single Dominant Power form of government.

No, the subject for The Oregonian's lead editorial today is shock, horror! a call to Mayor Tom Potter to DO SOMETHING, QUICK! about the clear and present danger that Portland Development Commission employees will likely (gasp!) vote to (sob).... join a union! "Whatever happened to the PDC?"

Oh. My. No, not that! They used to be such a nice family. Kept to themselves a bit, but we like that in Our Neighborhood. No riff raff. Nice people. Now this!

Yes, a union for PDC! Organizing so that employees who act in the best interests of the public are protected from the whims and politics of upper management. Giving workers job security they currently lack - they don't even get the Civil Service protections that Mayor Potter is proposing to gut in the ballot measure referred to the May ballot. Providing front-line staff a structure and support to give them a voice in the direction of an agency which many Portlanders believe should turn its major focus to financing projects that benefit small businesses and create new home ownership opportunities for current renters in neighborhoods outside the Central City.

But no, to The Oregonian, this will be "...yet another blow to a proud city institution". Excuse me?

Forming a union is a bad thing? Just last night at my work in OHSU's dungeon, my fellow staff nurses and I were talking about our union, and how patient care and staffing levels benefitted from our strike in 2001. Because of our union, we can speak out when we see problems trickling down from the "business model" approach to health care, adversely affecting our ability to deliver excellent patient care at the bedside. Because of our union, we have a contract, renewable every two or three years, at which time negotiations have to address things like adequate funding of continuing staff education, and giving staff nurses the policies and equipment we need to deliver services.

The Oregonian seems to believe PDC deserves all the credit for our wonderful city. "To the extent that the PDC turns into a clone of every other city bureau, Portland in the long run turns into a clone of other cities.". So none of the City bureaus do innovative, excellent work that greatly improves everyone's quality of life, and PDC always does? The editorial asserts, "Unionizing the PDC might not be fatal, but it won't enhance the agency's effectiveness. It's likely to make the agency slower, blander and more bureaucratic, more like every other bureau at City Hall."

Apparently our daily newspaper either doesn't realize or doesn't care how insulting that is, to the hardworking people employed at the City of Portland. Or to the thousands of union workers in the Portland Metro region, whose negotiated contracts help set community standards that businesses must compete with to attract good employees.

No, it's the end of the world as we know it, if a government agency's employees want to form a union.

I feel fine.


See also Randy Leonard's comments on The O's editorial.

And Jack Bogdanski's here.

I'm happy to say, I cut into The Oregonians bottom line, in a small part at least. I signed up for a free 6 weeks and they have been putting the paper on my doorstep daily for 6 months sans payment. Wish we had another daily in our little town.