Swifts On Strike! 8,000 Birds Organize Fly-Out Amid Labor Dispute; Chapman Calls In Temp Pigeons

 Swifts On Strike! 8,000 Birds Organize Fly-Out Amid Labor Dispute; Chapman Calls In Temp Pigeons

As summer turns to fall, hundreds of residents amass at Chapman Elementary School to witness a yearly aerial treat. Throughout September, thousands of Vaux’s Swifts congregate above the school, performing acrobatic team flying until finally streaming into the school’s chimney an hour before sunset. This year’s bird show has been marred by a labor dispute which finally reached a breaking point on Tuesday night.⁣

“We are crying FOWL over unfair labor practices by the Portland Audubon Society,” decried Swift union secretary Tiffany Splinter. “Our entire flock is going on strike effective immediately, after 40 years of continuous service. Enough is enough.”⁣

Splinter, a five year old swift who has lived for much of September inside Chapman’s famous chimney, was unrelenting. “At the end of the day it comes down to being treated fairly with wages, hours, vacation time and physical and mental health services. We bring great entertainment, education and joy to the city, but some of us aren’t able to put insects on the table for our families. Until our demands are discussed in good faith, we are taking our lunchpails and going back to our nests.”⁣

Holding “captive audience” meetings and attempting to use similar union busting tactics as New Seasons did in the spring was not enough to stop the strike. Upon hearing that the strike was official, Audubon representatives scrambled to sign birds to temporary contracts to fill the immediate need at Chapman. As of press time they had confirmed upwards of 900 pigeons.⁣

“These birds have put us in a very tough position,” said Audubon volunteer Jerry Schmidt. “They need to think long and hard about the impact this is having on the community. While we wish we could offer them competitive healthcare, there just isn’t the budget for it. We’re not sure how much more vacation time we can give them, they already receive 11 months per year.”⁣

With both sides far apart on labor negotiations, it remains to be seen what onlookers will see the next few evenings at Chapman.