Standard Insurance came under nationwide scrutiny as low wage workers and their allies raised concerns about Standard’s contracting practices. In Chicago, Boston, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, Denver and Seattle, janitors delivered letters to Standard insurance offices, calling on the company to do right by the people who clean their buildings. As one more example of the powerful #JusticeForJanitors campaign, the delegations all requested that The Standard reverse course and choose from one of the many Responsible Contractors that operate in the Portland market.
A group of immigrant janitors in California are changing the janitorial industry from the ground up. On June 24, over 100 janitors, mostly members of SEIU United Service Workers West, celebrated graduation from Promotora trainings. The trainings covered the prevention of sexual harassment and assault, as well as certifying janitors to train their coworkers across the state to prevent violence in the future. The training is part of an innovative strategy to end sexual violence before it happens, based on a simple concept – that empowered workers who know their rights are the best trainers on how to prevent future workplace violence.
For over 20 years, Standard Insurance Center and Standard Plaza have invested in a responsible union janitorial company to keeps their offices clean. Janitors in the buildings had good jobs, earned fair wages and had access to affordable healthcare. In July, Standard made the decision to switch to Millennium Building Services, a non-union contractor marked “Red,” the lowest possible rating, on ResponsibleContractorGuide.net. Millennium workers have been speaking out about working conditions since 2017. Workers report extreme exploitation, unfair wages and unaffordable health insurance. Millennium is known for using a subcontractor model, where they may further subcontract janitorial services to dubious “independent contractors” — sometimes without the knowledge of the building managers.
After years of trying to reach out in other ways, janitors are now speaking to TMT Development, and its president, Vanessa Sturgeon through a lawsuit. On the morning of June 14, as workers across the country held demonstrations to celebrate Justice for Janitors Day, SEIU Local 49 filed a lawsuit in Multnomah County Circuit Court seeking a declaratory judgment showing TMT Development to be in violation of a binding agreement they signed. SEIU Local 49 alleges that TMT Development committed to contracting for janitorial services with a company whose employees are represented by a union.
National Maintenance Contractors, a janitorial firm with a long history with legal challenges, faces scrutiny this week after new claims are made. The NMC business model has come under fire in Oregon and Washington, especially after after a 2013 ruling by an administrative law judge—upheld in 2015 and 2017—found that NMC misclassified employees as franchisees.