Democratic Mayor Ted Wheeler announced earlier this month that he would instruct managers to approve a week of leave without question and encouraged private employers to follow suit.
“As a nation and as a city we continue to grieve the recent loss of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor and Ahmaud Arbery, and others in the country and in our community,” Wheeler wrote in an initial June 8 email. “We acknowledge that black employees are experiencing a collective grief and trauma coming from a culmination of oppression that is over 400 years old.”
City employees received another email Tuesday from Portland’s Human Resources bureau that said the bureau was giving city workers “a chance to grieve.”
“The intent centered on the city’s Black and other employees of color as well as white staff who have immediate relatives who are people of color,” an email obtained by The Oregonian said. The message also said the bureau wouldn’t “make judgments about who should or should not take this leave,” and urged Portland’s white employees to think about how they could help cover the work of the colleagues who chose to step away.
The email continued: “We are asking particularly white employees to reflect on why and how they are taking this time if they so choose, and we ask white employees to consider how they can support BIPOC colleagues. We are also encouraging BIPOC communities, particularly black employees to take care of their needs and know that the City of Portland acknowledges that Black Lives Matter.”
There are more than 7,600 people on the city’s payroll of which about 2,000 are people of color. White people make up 73.5 percent of the workforce, according to the latest demographic data.
Portlanders have taken to the streets to protest police brutality and systemic racism for 29 days in a row.
Overnight on Thursday, demonstrations flared resulting in confrontations between police and protesters as well as property damage and fires.
Local media reported that police used tear has to disperse crowds.
The police department has not released any information about munitions used but did say several people had been arrested and that businesses were vandalized and looted.
Calls to the mayor’s office for comment were not immediately returned.