A recent Oregonian article highlighted issues between union
members at the Oregon Zoo in Portland and (relatively) new zoo director Kim
Smith. The article focused on the relationship between Smith and Laborers Local
483, which represents mostly zookeepers and such at the facility. Additionally,
Oregon AFSCME Local 3580 represents another 40 employees at the zoo, which is
run by the Metro regional government.
the question: Is Local 3580 having the same level of issues as the Laborers?
"I'd say no,
at least not so right now," says Local 3580 President Matt Tracy, who notes he
works elsewhere for Metro, not at the zoo.
article, Smith acknowledged a transition to stricter policies and more
disciplined management and fiscal practices — a mandate, she says, from
Metro when she became the zoo's director in 2010. Tracy agrees with Smith that
the transition has been difficult for many employees — more so, he says,
for the keepers.
culture change up there," said Tracy. "For whatever reason, it's been harder
for the zookeepers than for our staff, which is primarily office support people
and other 'white collar' positions. Certainly, we've had some bumpy spots, but
mostly it's been a communication issue. And while we support our union brothers
and sisters in the Laborers, to be fair I have to say we haven't experienced
problems at the same level they have."
Tracy said a
planned hour-long lunch meeting between Smith and Local 3580 members recently
extended to 75 minutes. Tracy said the union articulated to Smith that her
vision for the zoo had not been translated well to line staff. Members asked
direct questions, he said, and generally were satisfied with the answers they
people were concerned about disruption around them, and people they've known a
long time leaving," he said, referencing the 25 percent overall employee
turnover at the zoo since Smith took the reins. "But again, to be balanced,
there's sort of a dysfunctional history there, and we acknowledge that Kim has
a difficult job. She's gotten rid of some managers, too, that needed to go."
Local 3580 remains vigilant and keeps a wary eye on zoo happenings. Council 75
Staff Representative Jaimie Sorenson echoes Tracy, saying "things are OK for us
right now, but there are some issues we're following closely. We very much want
to work together and see the zoo succeed."