Portland Janitors and Security Officers Win Guaranteed Job-Quality Standards in Broadway Corridor Development
The Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC) and SEIU Local 49 settled two groundbreaking agreements that will raise job quality standards and create training opportunities for janitors and security officers in the future Broadway Corridor development. Broadway Corridor is 34 acres that connects Old Town/Chinatown and the Pearl District. Historically, the Broadway Corridor has been the home to Native, Black, Chinese, and Japanese Americans who have been forcibly displaced over the past century. Now, the City of Portland and Prosper Portland plan to use $40+ million of public tax dollars to leverage $1+ billion of private investment to redevelop an old U.S. Postal Service property, a 14-acre parcel near the west side of the Broadway Bridge. This could create nearly 4 million square feet of space in new commercial, residential, and retail buildings. The opportunity to develop a whole new neighborhood in the central city is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. HCC is a coalition of more than 20 organizations – representing Portland’s communities of color, environmental and environmental justice communities, small businesses, transportation justice advocates, people with disabilities and organized workers – with the shared goal of ensuring development in Portland is built on a foundation of racial equity and delivers good jobs, quality, affordable housing and opportunities to Black, Indigenous, People of Color and working class communities. For the last year, HCC has been negotiating with Prosper Portland to make good on Prosper’s promise that the Broadway Corridor project will create good jobs, affordable housing, and other community benefits. In August, HCC, Prosper Portland and the City of Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), agreed to the terms of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Broadway Corridor project that guarantees affordable housing, sustainability measures, job quality standards for construction workers, opportunities for women and people of color in the construction trades as workers and contractors, and other benefits. What’s innovative about this agreement is that it goes beyond the construction phase and will foster job quality for employees of service contractors once the buildings are built. The CBA includes a requirement that future building owners and tenants contribute a fraction of their costs of janitorial and security services to a workforce development fund. This fund will support trainings for service workers in topics such as preventing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, and using green cleaning practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The CBA also commits all parties to collaborate in supporting janitorial and security firms owned by women, people of color, and service disabled veterans to become more competitive based on raising employee job-quality standards, rather than maximizing profits by paying low wages. Meanwhile, SEIU Local 49 also negotiated, with HCC’s support, a separate agreement with Broadway Corridor developer Continuum Partners to guarantee good jobs for janitors and security officers. The SEIU-Continuum agreement, signed in May, requires that future owners and tenants of office buildings and large retail spaces in Broadway Corridor to choose Responsible Contractors to provide janitorial and security services. Responsible Contractors are those that compensate their workforce at or above prevailing wages and benefits, and respect and encourage the right of their employees to bargain collectively, among other criteria. SEIU Local 49 maintains a Responsible Contractor list at www.raiseamericapdx.org/responsible. Adela Maza, a janitor and member of SEIU Local 49, addressed Prosper Portland and Continuum Partners at the negotiating table in Sep. 2019. She said, “Building owners often save money by hiring janitorial companies with no union and low wages and benefits. They make their money on our backs. I am here to ask you to make sure that this project really is different, that all jobs in Broadway Corridor are good jobs, that workers have the opportunity to negotiate a fair deal for ourselves. We want to be part of the community, not just the cheap workforce, struggling to survive in poverty.” Today, we celebrate the victory that janitors and security officers share with so many other members of our community, in winning enforceable agreements to create good jobs, affordable housing, and other community benefits in Portland’s next new neighborhood.
As of January 1, 2018, all janitorial employers in the State of Oregon were required to obtain a license to provide janitorial services. Oregon janitors in SEIU Local 49 filed a lawsuit in September 2019 against Expresso Building Services for failure to obtain a license as a janitorial employer. SEIU alleged that Expresso continued to operate as an unlicensed janitorial contractor in Oregon for nearly 18 months, only applying after receiving an inquiry from state investigators who were following up on an anonymous complaint.
As tenants question returning to the office, your choice in a janitorial vendor can have a big impact. Say good-bye to the shared candy bowl and ping pong table with shared paddles. Beyond office redesign many tenants first question is about janitorial service. As tenants mull over scope and frequency of cleaning, another thing to keep in mind is the benefits that your janitor may or may not have.
In the midst of a pandemic, Portland-area Union janitors and their supporters are calling on Standard Insurance to invest in frontline workers. While improvements and protections for union janitors and tenants improve, circumstances get worse for non-union janitors. Union janitors win a contract extension that addresses concerns during this pandemic that includes a wage increase, expanded paid sick leave and COVID protections. Meaning building owners and tenants who use Union companies can feel proud of the protections for frontline workers cleaning their facilities.
In a win-win for all Oregonians, the Oregon Investment Council (OIC) unanimously approved March 11 an updated Responsible Contractor Policy (RCP), that helps protect property services workers (janitors and security officers), commercial real estate tenants and participants in the Oregon Public Employees Retirement System (OPERS) from irresponsible contracting practices in commercial real estate markets across the country.
Shorenstein Realty Services, Unico Properties, Nike, and Intel are stepping up to ensure that the essential workers who clean their properties—janitors—are able to support their families during this crisis and are helping to mitigate the health risks and financial impacts of COVID-19 by investing in responsible union janitorial contractors.
After decades of being cleaned by a Responsible Union Contractor, the new owners of Harrison Square made the hasty decision to switch to Expresso Building Services. This is the same Expresso Building Services that is currently being sued for their alleged failure to obtain a license to provide janitorial services in Oregon until 18 months after they were required to do so by Oregon state law. Developing story as we learn more.
Several months after switching to Millennium Building Services for its night shift janitorial services, a recent tenant survey at Standard Insurance Tower and Plaza found that 60% of respondents feel that the night janitorial quality had gone down under the new contractor.
Unico Properties has joined the ranks of several other high-profile owners and management firms by choosing a Responsible Contractor to clean Montgomery Park. After Unico purchased Montgomery Park in April 2019, the company decided to cancel its contract with Millennium Building Services, a janitorial company where workers have been speaking up about low wages, lack of access to insurance, and lack of access to earned sick time.
A regional gathering on November 8 brought together over 70 Portland-area janitors to plan a campaign to win a ground-breaking contract with their employers in the coming months. The janitors are part of the 3,000 janitorial members of SEIU Local 49 in the Portland metro area. Although they are employed by many different janitorial contractors, their wages, benefits, and workplace protections are all under the same “Portland Metropolitan Area Master Collective Bargaining Agreement” set to expire June 30.
Shorenstein Realty Services (SRS) recently chose a verified Responsible Contractor, Able Services, to clean the company’s three office parks in the Portland suburban market: Kruse Woods Corporate Park (in Lake Oswego), Lincoln Center (Beaverton), and Nimbus Corporate Center (Tigard).
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.
As of January 1st, 2018, all janitorial employers in the State of Oregon were required to obtain a license to provide janitorial services. Oregon janitors in SEIU 49, the janitors union, filed a lawsuit last week against Expresso Building Services for failure to obtain a license as a janitorial employer. Our understanding is that Expresso continued to operate as an unlicensed janitorial contractor in Oregon for nearly 18 months, only applying after receiving an inquiry from state investigators who were following up on an anonymous complaint. Janitorial service clients may closely watch the suit, as Oregon law also requires anyone who receives janitorial services to inspect and retain a copy of the license of their janitorial provider.
Standard Insurance talks about how they “act with compassion,” and have a “culture of caring.” They host events, such as their Volunteer Expo in downtown Portland, to attempt to demonstrate their commitment. Janitors and their supporters questioned Standards’ commitment to Portland after they chose to eliminate 15 good union jobs for janitors in their two downtown buildings. Handing out leaflets at the event, janitors and their supporters highlighted that Standard is failing Portland workers by eliminating good jobs.
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.
TMT breaking promise leads janitors to speak out during panel discussion Developers planned a breakfast to discuss the new “Opportunity Zones” created by Trump Tax cuts. They planned to hear from Vanessa Sturgeon, the informal spokesperson for Opportunity Zones in Portland and President of TMT Development.
Unico Faces Call to Create Good Jobs at Newly-purchased Montgomery Park Unico Properties grabbed headlines in April after purchasing the iconic Montgomery Park, Portland’s second largest office building. The property manager and owner drew attention last year after choosing a non-union contractor, Millennium Building Services, to clean their buildings The Lovejoy and Machineworks. Now janitors are speaking out again to make sure tenants and visitors to Montgomery Park know about the irresponsible practices Millennium, the janitorial contractor at Montgomery Park, has engaged in.
Weeks after Investors Alerted to Potential Risks Associated with TMT Development, News Breaks Highlighting Record of Irresponsibility. Park Avenue West Tower’s developer and major tenant, TMT Development, has been drawing attention in Portland, but not in the way it might want. In late February, investor alerts highlighted risks associated with possible failure to live up to its lending agreements, possible failure to meet requirements of its city covenant, and possible exposure to liability under ORS 658.465. The attention to TMT comes while an associated entity, Sturgeon Development Partners d/b/a Opportunity Development Partners is seeking financing for major projects in Portland and Salem, Oregon. This week, TMT’s controversial record of flouting commitments landed it in an exposé in Willamette Week and followup article.
Owner KBS and manager CBRE move to protect workers and investment by hiring responsible janitorial contractor. Janitors celebrate this month as word was released that good union jobs would be returning to the Commonwealth Building in downtown Portland. Commonwealth had, for years, been cleaned by union janitors before a decision was made to choose Expresso Building Services to clean the building. After speaking out, downtown janitors can celebrate a step in the right direction after Commonwealth announced that they would be changing contractors to use a verified “Responsible Contractor” to clean the building.
Millennium employee who fell multiple stories reveals hidden layers of subcontracting. The story reads like a nightmare: Jeff Ready-Kraft, a window cleaner, fell eight stories from the top of the Morgan Building in downtown Portland. His hand was burned from attempting to grip the rope to stop himself. A witness told local news, “Out of the corner of my eye, I saw this flash. There was a little vibration you could feel when he landed on the ground, it was crazy.” Further investigation from Oregon’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) revealed that the building owners may not have even known that Mr. Ready-Kraft would be working on their building.
Trustees for major pension and investment funds expect protections for workers’ rights against sexual harassment and assault. The #MeToo movement highlighted how harassment, discrimination, and assault pervade corporate cultures, from the executive level to front-line workers. A movement that began with courageous survivors sparking public moral outrage found major allies among institutional investors last month. The “Trustees United for Long Term Value” released their list of principles to guide their investments, a list that began with the premise that sexual harassment and misconduct manifest in the value of companies. Now the Trustees are getting behind janitors fighting for safe, fair working conditions.
High-Profile Owner of Park Avenue West Tower accused of violations of city covenant Park Avenue West Tower’s completion marked a turning point for Portland commercial real estate. For years, the open foundation was seen as an eyesore and reminder of the great recession. In 2016, TMT proudly opened the mixed used high rise in downtown Portland after a redesign helped attract new investment. As part of the permit approval process for their redesign, TMT Development and Park Avenue West agreed to a binding covenant with the City of Portland, including a commitment to contract with responsible union janitorial companies to clean the commercial portions of the building. To date, TMT does not use union janitorial contractors to clean Park Avenue West (instead using Millennium Building Services). Now, as janitors and supporters focus on TMT for its failure to provide good jobs while benefitting from tax cuts for millionaires, major real estate investors are hearing concerns regarding the risk of investments associated with TMT. At the end of February, investors in the Portland real estate market received notice of risks associated with TMT Development. TMT secured $130 million in permanent financing from MetLife after Park Avenue West tower opened; investors may be concerned to learn that TMT may be in violation of the lending agreement with MetLife. Additional concerns raised for investors include that TMT may be in violation of their covenant with the City of Portland. The letter to investors elaborates: “as the situation continues to stagnate, the City may be forced to consider its options in enforcing the covenant.” The alert details concerns for potential investors regarding TMT and associated entities – such as Sturgeon Development Partners (SDP) d/b/a Opportunity Development Partners. These entities are seeking to attract investments to projects that will enjoy tax benefits from the Opportunity Zone program created by the Trump administration’s tax legislation of 2017. SDP’s pursuit of Opportunity Zone funding already landed TMT in hot water with Portland-area janitors keen on preserving areas standards for wages and working conditions. On March 2nd, an enormous banner was released at Park Avenue West tower, demanding good jobs in the tower. While hundreds of supporters rallied on the ground floor, Portlanders were treated to a clear message for good jobs and in opposition to the Trump-administration tax breaks for wealthy downtown building owners. Janitors anticipate taking further action to hold TMT accountable.
RELEASE: Labor union and environmental group unite in call for change at Daimler Trucks North America
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: October 24, 2018 Contact: Rae Dunnaville, 503-919-1960, email@example.com A janitors’ labor union and air quality activists have teamed up to advocate for Daimler to change its approach to community engagement. PORTLAND, OR — Portland-area janitors and their allies have criticized Daimler (OTCMKTS: DMLRY) for hiring a low-wage, non-union janitorial contractor to clean its new headquarters and nearby buildings. Now air quality advocates and a janitors’ labor union have teamed up to advocate for Daimler to change its approach to community engagement. Oregon’s Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) recently issued a notice to Daimler Trucks of North America that the company’s truck production plant in Portland may release unlawful “nuisance odors” into adjacent neighborhoods. DEQ’s regulatory action follows years of complaints by area residents, including reports of “gagging, nausea, headaches and coughing.” Daimler has denied responsibility, despite a research study from University of Portland that concluded Daimler was the source of nuisance odors. Local advocates have called on Daimler to enter into a voluntary Good Neighbor Agreement, but the company refused. Now DEQ is requiring Daimler to take action to address neighbors’ concerns. In August, the agency announced that Daimler has until October 26, 2018, to negotiate a Best Work Practices Agreement to mitigate the problem. If Daimler fails to negotiate an agreement acceptable to DEQ, the state agency can impose fines, which could exceed $10 million. “Daimler received up to $20 million in public funds to build its new headquarters building in Portland, then hired a janitorial company that pays poverty wages and has high rates of on the job injuries,” said Maggie Long, executive director of SEIU Local 49. “That’s not a fair return on taxpayers’ investment, and it’s not acting like a good neighbor. We call on Daimler to use a responsible contractor and to work with DEQ and area residents to negotiate a fair agreement to reduce its industrial emissions.” “It is time for Daimler to take responsibility for the negative impacts on the health and well-being of its neighbors,” said Mary Peveto, Executive Director of Neighbors for Clean Air. “Daimler’s unfiltered paint fumes blow directly into the neighborhood above its Swan Island truck manufacturing plant, and we believe the company’s janitorial contracting choices are not supporting good jobs at Daimler facilities.” ### Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 49 made up over 13,000 members in Oregon and southwest Washington who work in healthcare, janitorial, security, and other industries. Neighbors for Clean Air (NCA) is a non-profit (501c3) grassroots community advocacy group working for clean and healthy air. The mission is to engage and inform the public about the impact of air toxics, such as diesel particulate and industrial air toxics, and work with community organizations, regulatory agencies and businesses to reduce air toxics and provide a safer and higher quality of life. www.whatsinourair.org
Daimler Trucks of North America Continues Indifferent Reaction to Serious Allegations Against Service Contractors
“U.S. Security is the most unprofessional company I have ever worked with!” -Security Official, Delaware Courts Daimler Trucks of North America received public funding, to the tune of $20 million in state and local assistance, to construct their headquarters building, completed in 2016. As part of the agreement, Daimler committed to create good jobs for their employees. It appears that they’ve followed through with those commitments, at least for their direct employees. The agreement left out any requirements that workers who clean and secure Daimler’s headquarters, employees of service contractors, also enjoy good jobs. In the case with Millennium Building Services, the company Daimler contracts with to perform janitorial services, Daimler appears to ignore concerns raised about job quality. Millennium employees report struggling with poverty wages, lack of access to affordable health insurance, and denial of legally-required benefits like earned sick leave. In response to a letter raising serious concerns about service contractors at Daimler, the company’s representative responded with stunning indifference: ”If you have issues with another company, I would suggest that you contact a representative of that company.” In the case of their security contractor, US Security Associates, Daimler appears to maintain the same approach. From California to Oregon, Nevada, Texas and more, US Security Associates (USSA) and related entities have been the subject of more than 50 federal and state lawsuits—including poor performance and wrongful death—since 2000. While US Security denies many of the allegations, a substantial proportion of these charges were settled before a verdict was reached. The sheer number of allegations and cases filed against USSA raise distressing questions about U.S. Security’s ability to ensure security officers are working in a safe environment: The State of Delaware did not renew USSA’s contract to provide armed security for seven state courts. Despite frequent warnings regarding employee ‘no shows’ at public buildings and being placed on probation, the problems with USSA persisted until the State of Delaware chose not to renew the contract. In one telling example, a U.S. Security Associates Supervisor told a court Deputy Chief of Security “it’s not my fucking problem.” Further, in violation of their contract with the state, USSA officers worked double shifts and bills from US Security to the state did not match log books According to a security official at the Delaware courts, “S. Security is the most unprofessional company I have ever worked with!” Court staff further requested “a security company that will at the least show up on time or better yet show up.” (2011) In 2016, John Lopez filed a lawsuit against USSA and the GAP claiming he was falsely accused of shoplifting and was “violently knocked down, injured, detained, and arrested / imprisoned” by USSA personnel. Lopez asserts he had no merchandise on him and USSA did not call the police until after he was injured. Lopez states he sustained serious and permanent injuries including “fractured clavicle, shoulder injury, five fractured ribs, traumatic pneumothorax, pulmonary collapse, traumatic pleural effusion, and bilateral atelectasis.” The parties notified the court a settlement agreement had been reached. In Texas, in a federal lawsuit against USSA and Fiesta Mart, Vincent Reed alleged false imprisonment, deprivation of civil rights and negligent hiring, supervision and training by USSA personnel when he was shopping in a grocery store. Reed alleged he was “the only African-American in the store, and Defendants singled out, confronted him, and restrained him even though he was not guilty of shoplifting.” A settlement agreement between Reed and USSA / Fiesta Mart was reached. In California, Police investigated a 2011 shooting that occurred after a bank robbery where USSA personnel shot several rounds into a parking lot that was “fairly packed” with passersby and vehicles as the suspects were fleeing the scene. A spokesperson for the police department noted that it was “very unusual for a guard to shoot at suspects” and that he could not remember any previous bank robbery where an armed guard fired at suspects. Janitors, security officers, and their allies call on Daimler to choose a responsible contractor for both security services and janitorial services. Responsible contractors commit to meeting area standards in terms of wages, benefits, and job quality, as well has having tried and tested dispute resolution systems in place to respect employee rights. For a list of responsible contractors in the Portland area, visit www.RaiseAmericaPDX.org/responsible.
Last September, Millennium Building Service janitors approached property managers for Nike to ask for them to speak up for janitors’ job quality at the Nike corporate headquarters. The janitors were paid poverty wages, had no access to affordable health insurance, believed they were being denied protected sick time, and wanted a voice on the job. They asked Nike to communicate to Millennium, their employer, that Millennium should work with their workers. Millennium refused to talk with janitors when they raised concerns directly. In July, Millennium janitors celebrated victory. After months of organizing their coworkers, and filing federal charges related to alleged interrogation, retaliation and coercion, Nike decided to choose a janitorial contractor that listens to its workers. Nike’s property manager revealed that they decided to end their relationship with Millennium for janitorial services, and instead choose one of the many responsible contractors listed on the Responsible Contractor Guide. “We asked Millennium for a fair process for our union, but they wouldn’t talk to us. Now we’ll have a union! We wish MBS would have agreed to get out of the way of workers organizing, but Nike’s decision to use a responsible contractor means our jobs are protected and will keep getting better!” – John Fundorhide, Nike Janitor, SEIU 49 Member The decision to choose a responsible contractor at Nike means that Millennium workers’ jobs are safe – the incoming janitorial company will retain existing employees who wish to remain at their location. Moreover, Nike can know that workers have guarantees to protections for their rights on the job, fair wages and a process to resolve disputes with workers should they arise, which all can improve worker morale and service quality. Nike is joining a long list of Portland-area responsible contractors who aren’t willing to gamble with their janitorial services. For more on responsible contracting, and a list of local responsible contractors, visit www.RaiseAmericaPDX.org/Responsible.
Shortly after union janitors left the building, complaints already had come up and tenants were concerned – that’s what janitors heard when they visited The Lovejoy and Machineworks in Northwest Portland in August. Unico Properties manages both The Lovejoy and also Machineworks, a property owned by Blackrock (NYSE: BLK). In July, Unico decided to take a risk by using Millennium Building Services for janitorial service, a decision that meant eliminating good janitorial jobs in the buildings. Unico’s decision to undercut area jobs standards for janitors appears to move in the opposite direction of one of their tenants at Machineworks, Microsoft. In August, Microsoft announced that they would require service contractors at their headquarters to offer paid family leave for employees. When janitors visited Machineworks and The Lovejoy to talk to tenants, the tenants were alarmed to hear the decision Unico made. By choosing Millennium, Unico chose a contractor with a history of employment-related problems. Millennium employees report struggling with poverty wages while cleaning multi-million-dollar properties, even after years of loyalty to the company. BOLI, the state agency tasked with enforcing labor rules, found that Millennium illegally denied workers their rights under Oregon’s sick leave law. Millennium reported illness and injury rates 2-3 times higher than the industry average. Millennium employees and union janitors are calling on Unico Properties to choose a responsible contractor to clean their buildings, including The Lovejoy and Machineworks. You can read more about the risks associated with Millennium Building Services in a June report, Cleaning Up Oregon’s Janitorial Industry. A list of responsible contractors in the Portland metro area can be found at www.RaiseAmericaPDX.org/responsible.
Janitors & Supporters Speak Out About Switch to Low Road Contractors at Machineworks and the Lovejoy Building
Tenants at The Lovejoy and Machine Works aren’t the only ones dissatisfied after Millennium Building Services took over janitorial service at the buildings—local janitors are speaking out too! The property manager, Unico Properties, is in the hot seat after they decided to bring in Millennium instead of one of the many responsible contractors operating in Portland. Millennium has a record of problems with their employees. Millennium employees have reported poverty wages even after years of loyalty. BOLI, the state labor agency, found that Millennium illegally denied workers their rights under Oregon’s sick leave law. Millennium also reported on-the-job injuries and illnesses at 2–3 times the industry average rate. Janitors spent the day explaining the situation to tenants and calling on Unico to choose a responsible contractor. The list of responsible contractors is available at RaiseAmericaPDX.org/Responsible.
When Daimler decided in 2016 to keep its headquarters in Portland, they gained nearly $20 million in public subsidies to build a beautiful new building. Daimler committed to create good jobs – and for some workers, they did. But when it came to the mostly immigrant women who clean the building and the security officers who protect it, Daimler has ignored workers’ and community concerns. Now, the janitors who work for Daimler’s cleaning contractor, Millennium Building Services, are speaking out. Millennium janitors have reported poverty wages, illegal interrogation, and coercion. They’ve won back pay after filing claims of wage theft and lack of access to earned sick time. A list of licensed contractors provided by the Bureau of Labor and Industries to SEIU on June 4, 2018, did not include Millennium Building Services. US Security Associates (USSA), the security contractor hired to protect Daimler’s headquarters, also has a list of legal issues, including facing charges of wage theft and lawsuits alleging violations of wage and hour protections in states across the country. In California alone, the company has settled wage and hour lawsuits in amounts totaling $21 million. Additionally, USSA was forced to pay over $28,000 in back wages since 2006 for violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and was forced to settle at least 18 other federal wage and hour lawsuits since 2004. In a recent Stand for Security poll, guards from Oregon, Washington, California and more, weighed in on their experience working for US Security Associates. More than 60% of officers who completed the poll reported issues with their paychecks by USSA; 65% of officers surveyed cited issues with USSA not respecting and listening to the employees; and 79% of security officers polled said they would not recommend this company to others. This week, hundreds acted together to call on Daimler to do better. Joining a nationwide online petition about the problems with US Security in the Portland area, community supporters sent emails and wrote messages to stop the race to the bottom. Click here to sign the petition to Daimler calling on them to choose a responsible security contractor. “I used to work for US Security Associates. I felt they did not respect the security officers they employ or provide us with the training and tools needed to do our jobs. I ended up leaving for a more professional company.” -Officer Debbie Melton-Joyner
June 15 marks an important anniversary for janitors and security officers across the world. Each year, janitors across the country mark the occasion with major actions to continue to fight for good jobs. In Portland, members of the janitor’s union, SEIU 49, visited premier property managers and building owners to highlight the changing landscape of janitorial services in Oregon. Delivering copies of the new report, Cleaning Up Oregon’s Janitorial Industry, janitors put property owners ON NOTICE of the new licensing requirement for janitorial services in Oregon, and that, in some cases, their current contractors appear not be licensed to preform janitorial services. In 2017, the Oregon Legislature took an exciting step by passing the Property Service Worker Protection Act (HB 3279), which is enforceable on July 1, 2018. The bill established a statewide registry for janitorial companies, requiring that all janitorial employers obtain a license from the Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI). Customers of janitorial services are legally required to ensure that the company they hire has a Property Services Contractor license. Janitorial clients who hire unlicensed contractors can be held jointly and severally liable for unpaid wages and attorneys’ fees. It is now within property managers’ due diligence to check if there are unlicensed janitorial contractors operating in their buildings. A list of licensed contractors provided by BOLI to SEIU on June 4, 2018 did not include Millennium Building Services; other major non-union janitorial companies were notably absent from the list. Also, just because a primary janitorial company is licensed does not mean that all janitorial contractors who clean your offices are. A common practice among even well-known companies is to subcontract to other lesser-known janitorial companies, and these sub-contracted companies may not be registered with the state. In our opinion, this practice would violate the new registry law and customers might be liable. Janitors employed by subcontractors raise credible and serious concerns of misclassification of employees, wage theft including payment of below minimum wage, failure to secure worker’s compensation insurance, and threats when workers raise concerns to their employers. A clear reading of Oregon law is that a client may be held responsible for wage theft by unlicensed subcontractors. Responsible building owners and managers can find a vetted list of contractors at RaiseAmericaPDX.org/responsible. All contractors listed as “responsible” on this site are licensed with Oregon’s BOLI, as well as meeting or exceeding areas standards for pay, benefits, working conditions, and protections for worker’s rights. 2018 marks another major step forward in the fight for Justice for Janitors.
July 1, 2018, a new Oregon law will hold janitorial contractors and their customers responsible for fixing longstanding problems in the industry, including sexual harassment and assault, discrimination, and wage theft.
Cleaners Report Extremely High Turnover Rate The company that cleans Daimler Trucks North America’s headquarters – Millennium Building Services – has an employee turnover problem. Millennium janitors and day porters at Daimler come and go so fast that the turnover rate on site is nearly 100 percent per year, according to an analysis by SEIU of reports by workers. Millennium employees have reported approximately 17 cleaning positions at the headquarters – six day porters and eleven night janitors. In the last 12 months, Millennium employees say that 16 of their coworkers have left the building, which would mean a 94.1 percent turnover rate on site. Workers report an even higher rate of 109.1 percent among the Millennium janitors on Daimler HQ’s night shift. (Out of 11 known janitorial positions, there were 12 departures from Daimler HQ in the last year.) That is more than double the average turnover rate for all U.S. industries in 2017. Excessive churn can have a negative impact on service quality and productivity, according to business analysts, and it can hurt employee morale. Many factors contribute to high rates of turnover. Employees working for Millennium report poverty wages, lack of access to affordable health insurance, disrespectful treatment from supervisors and denial of access to protected earned sick time as major problems. In January, Millennium workers filed charges with the National Labor Relations Board alleging interrogation and retaliation; workers hope that Millennium will agree to respect workers’ rights to form their union. Clients interested in employee retention often contract with certified responsible contractors, listed on ResponsibleContractorGuide.com. Responsible contractors meet area standards for wages, benefits, and working conditions, and have a tried-and-tested dispute resolution system to avoid the expense of courtrooms or reputational damage from appearing on the front pages of newspapers.  The annual employee turnover rate for all industries, as measured by the Bureau of Labor Statistics, was 43 percent in 2017. U.S. Dept. of Labor, Bureau of Labor Statistics, “Economic News Release” no. USDL-18-0377, March 16, 2018, “Table 16. Annual total separations rates by industry and region, not seasonally adjusted,” https://www.bls.gov/news.release/archives/jolts_03162018.htm#jolts_table15.f.1.  Markovich, Miki. “The Negative Impacts of a High Turnover Rate.” Chron.com, April 13, 2018. http://smallbusiness.chron.com/negative-impacts-high-turnover-rate-20269.html.
U.S. Security Associates Subject to More Than 50 Federal Lawsuits As the national discussion on discrimination and harassment in the workplace continues, US Security Associates (USSA) and related entities have been the subject of more than 50 federal lawsuits—including racial discrimination & sexual harassment–since 2000. This litigation fans out across the country from Washington to California, Oregon, Texas and more. While USSA denies many of these allegations, a substantial proportion of these charges were settled before a verdict was reached. The sheer number of allegations and cases filed point to a distressing pattern within the company. In 2017, former US Security officer Maria Mainetti filed a claim alleging racial and gender discrimination. She asserts she was treated less favorably and discriminated against for being Hispanic. In addition, she claims male officers were hired at considerably higher pay rates than female guards and pay was not based on “superior skill, education, or experience, or any other legitimate factor.” She asserts she was terminated after making several formal complaints concerning company behavior. US Security and Mainetti notified the court that they reached a settlement and the court subsequently ordered the case dismissed with prejudice. In 2015, Megan Hendrickson filed a lawsuit against US Security. She alleged violations of the Equal Pay Act and retaliation after she filed charges of discrimination with the EEOC. She alleges that a US Security supervisor sent her “salacious, sexual text messages which were unwarranted and unwelcomed.” After she shared physical copies of the harassing text messages she had received with the HR Department, she had her pay cut by $3,000 per year, was relocated to a more distant post and was demoted. A settlement was reached between the parties and the case was subsequently dismissed with prejudice. In 2015, US Security Regional Manager Danny Davis filed a lawsuit against the company in which he alleged that his position was being eliminated and his employment was terminated in retaliation for his participation in the sexual harassment investigation against USSA Vice President Will Riley. After the investigation, Davis alleges that Riley created “a hostile work environment” for him. After his termination, Davis filed a complaint with the EEOC and received a notice of right to sue. A settlement was reached between the parties and the court ordered the case dismissed. This behavior reaches back years, including a 2006 diversity case where three US Security officers alleged USSA condoned gender and racial discrimination, subjected the women to fraudulent disciplinary action, created a hostile and offensive work environment and discriminated in terms of wages, benefits, terms and conditions. In response to this case, the judge wrote, “The instant record contains direct evidence of discriminatory animus by Clupper and Chapman [USSA supervisors], including one incident in which Clupper told Thomas that she had three strikes against her because she was a woman, an African American and a Democrat.” In 2006 a settlement was reached by the parties and the case was dismissed.
In a recent poll by Stand For Security, guards from California to Texas to Florida weighed in on their experience working for US Security Associates. More than 65% of officers who completed the poll cited issues with US Security not respecting and listening to the employees who guard the sites the company is hired to protect. In addition, 60% noted issues with their paycheck. “I worked for US Security and had a bad experience. We didn’t get any support from management or higher-ups in the company and it was consistently the lowest paid security detail. In addition, they often hired officers with questionable backgrounds. I believe US Security’s hiring practices did not meet the kind of standards we should have in this industry for hiring reliable and trustworthy officers. I ended up leaving the company.” -Officer Myers Over 50% of the guards who took the poll expressed concerns with inadequate on-the-job training. And 29% reported issues with discrimination and sexual harassment while working for US Security. Lastly, over 75% of officers polled said they would not recommend this company for protection services and used words such as “incompetent, unprofessional, disorganized, deceitful and disrespectful” to describe US Security. “I was a field supervisor for US Security, and they were a very unprofessional company. They had me work over 40 days in a row, and when I took my approved time-off for my partner’s surgery, they kept calling for me to come in while I was caring for her. Then they tried to switch it and say they didn’t approve the time-off after all. Needless to say, I ended up leaving because of their conduct and treatment of officers.” —Security Officer Rosa
Umpqua Bank prides itself on being a community bank, responsive to the needs of the people it serves and open to hearing comments from customers and the public. But when their janitorial contractor at their headquarters, Umpqua Bank Plaza, decided to eliminate 7 good union jobs for janitors in their building, community members were shocked that Umpqua Bank failed to intervene to protect good jobs for the Portland community. Now, members of the Portland community are asking Umpqua Bank to be true to its values. Umpqua has program to allow customers to call their CEO from every bank “store” using a special phone. Janitors and supporters in Portland are calling Umpqua’s CEO, Cort O’Haver, and saying “Let’s talk about good jobs.” Will Umpqua Bank and Mr. O’Haver listen to the community and commit to good jobs at Umpqua Bank Plaza? See more at facebook.com/RaiseAmericaPDX. The company that now cleans Umpqua Bank Plaza is National Maintenance Contractors (NMC). NMC sells dubious franchises to janitors—reportedly often to immigrant workers with limited English proficiency—through contracts that charge thousands of dollars in fees for the right to service Zeller’s customer accounts. In October 2017, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled NMC had to backpay the state approximately $138,000 in unemployment insurance taxes because these “franchisees” are legally employees. Findings in the case include: Janitors had to pay thousands of dollars just to work for NMC. Even after paying large fees up front, some janitors waited months for NMC to assign them work. NMC deducted from franchisees’ income up to 51% of what building owners and property managers paid for cleaning services, including a 25% service fee if franchisees wanted assurance they could keep working after their first year. Janitors were not paid for extra hours worked, such as when cleaning extra messes after an office party.
As the spotlight on sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the workplace grows brighter, US Security Associates (USSA) and related entities have been the subject of more than 50 federal lawsuits–including sexual harassment and gender discrimination–since 2000. In Portland, US Security Associates provides security to Daimler Trucks of North America, among other locations. The locality of litigation spread across the country to Oregon, California, Washington, Texas, Ohio, and many more. While USSA denies most of the allegations, a sizeable proportion of these charges were settled before a verdict was reached. The sheer number of allegations and cases filed speak to a distressing pattern of allegations within the company. Within the last six years, former US Security officer Rohini Benjamin filed a lawsuit charging US Security Associates with sexual harassment and retaliation. According to the suit, Benjamin was harassed by her supervisor who allegedly sent harassing text messages including suggesting her working conditions would improve if she accepted his sexual advances. Benjamin claims the situation was not dealt with appropriately and to the contrary after reporting this, her work hours were reduced and then she was removed from the site and forced to work on an on-call basis only. She filed a complaint and in 2012. US Security Associates and Benjamin settled the matter and the case was dismissed. Former USSA security officer, Tiffany Johnson, filed a lawsuit over sexual harassment. Johnson alleges a US Security employee touched her inappropriately at work and sent vulgar photos numerous times. She says she reached out to US Security management multiple times a month to solve this matter, but never had her calls and complaints returned. She further contends she was retaliated against for reporting alleged harassment and terminated from her post. Less than four weeks after she filed a complaint with the court, US Security and Johnson reached a settlement and the case was dismissed. Another such case involved Cindy Bartice, a US Security officer who filed a lawsuit in the California Superior Court. Bartice alleged gender discrimination, discrimination based on a medical condition-her pregnancy, and retaliation by USSA management. Bartice alleged she was forced to miss work on numerous occasions due to complications in her pregnancy, but that she had permission from her supervisor and a doctor’s note for each occasion. According to Bartice, she was told she would lose her job if she took leave after her baby was born because the Family Medical Leave Act did not apply to her. Once the baby arrived she took six weeks maternity leave. When she called to report back to work, she was told she had been terminated on the basis that she had “abandoned her job.” US Security and Bartice settled and the case was dismissed in September 2014. Such behavior extends back to 2010, when a federal jury determined US Security Associates was liable for $2.55 million in compensatory and punitive damages for sexual harassment, unlawful retaliation, and more. The Court concluded that USSA should be liable because “USSA’s cavalier attitude toward sexual harassment in the workplace coupled with the Supervisor’s demonstrated proclivity for sexual harassment of vulnerable women under his supervision provided the perfect storm for the most egregious case of sexual harassment, retaliation, and tortious conduct that has been tried in this court.” *Memorandum Opinion from an Alabama federal district court issued in connection with a lawsuit filed against U.S. Security, October 2010. For more information on US Security Associates, visit ResponsibleContractorGuide.org.
Janitors who clean the buildings at Nike World Headquarters went to property management last week demanding that Nike hold the contractors that they hire accountable for their actions. Janitors who work for Millennium Building Service (MBS) previously called on Nike to put a stop to the bad actions of MBS at Nike, but Nike has failed to act, even while a federal investigation continues over alleged illegal retaliation by MBS managers against workers speaking out. A growing group of janitors are ready to take action to hold MBS at Nike accountable. A large group of janitors crowded into offices at Nike headquarters asking Nike to use a responsible contractor for their janitorial – and for many of their buildings, Nike already does. It may be rare that large groups of janitors directly face Nike, but it’s not the first time Nike faced criticism for their subcontracting. A January article from The Oregonian described a “…brewing battle [that] pits mom-and-pop drywallers, sheet metal firms, glass companies and commercial flooring installers against two of the largest companies in the state in Nike and Hoffman.” Nike’s reaction to both janitors and their construction contractors point to a troubling “hands-off” approach to subcontracting. Janitors at Nike ask the company to be responsible about working conditions in their buildings.
“My coworkers and I are committed to winning better jobs. Today, we filed a charge with the NLRB to defend our rights from threats and intimidation, because when our supervisor threatens our jobs or our hours, they’re threatening our families.” – Laura Sixtos, Millennium Janitor who cleans Nike buildings Millennium Building Services is one of the janitorial companies that cleans Nike World Headquarters, a sprawling campus spread across 400 acres in Beaverton. Millennium previously had gained attention recently after janitors it employs at Nike spoke up about concerns on the job, prompting investigations by BOLI. One worker received back pay after reporting to BOLI that she was denied access to paid sick time after an on-the-job injury. Last week, Millennium janitors who clean Nike buildings filed a charge with the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency responsible for investigating and enforcing federal labor law. The charge alleges that Millennium made threats of retaliation and actually retaliated against janitors who are trying to make improvements on the job. Along with janitors across Portland, Millennium janitors who clean Nike buildings are speaking out and calling on building owners and property managers to choose responsible contractors. Choosing a union contractor is the best way to ensure that workers’ rights are protected, and that workers have a fair process to resolve issues that may arise. To find out more about responsible contracting, and find a list of responsible contractors, visit responsiblecontractorguide.com.
Daimler Trucks’ headquarters received a surprise visit this holiday season: Millennium Building Service janitors and supporters who stopped by to sing Christmas carols, modified with messages Daimler needs to hear. Instead of “We Wish You a Merry Christmas,” they sang, “We’ll Fight for Living Wages!” and other modified holiday classics. Despite the light-hearted approach, Millennium janitors and supporters rose serious issues and made it clear they won’t stop fighting until they win a union. Recently, Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) responded to Millennium janitors’ complaints regarding alleged retaliation for the use of protected sick time, and denial of access to protected sick time. Multiple MBS worker complaints with BOLI are still active, including two that were referred to BOLI’s civil rights division for further investigation. “Daimler can help us make sure we have good jobs. But so far, they haven’t done their duty to listen to us, the janitors who clean these buildings,” said John Fundorhide, a Millennium janitor. “We are part of the team, and the community. Does Daimler think it’s fair that we make poverty wages?”
Just like the nation’s largest real estate owners and managers, you probably rely on outsourced security and cleaning services to keep your building—and business—running safely and smoothly. Unfortunately, we know not every service contractor can be trusted to deliver value for both their clients and workforce. In response, folks just like you—property owners, managers, pension funds and more—have adopted responsible contractor policies to better inform their decisions when hiring security and cleaning professionals. This year, to help you navigate the long list of potential service contractors, we have developed an easy-to-use online tool—www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.org—which rates security and cleaning companies based on various responsible business practices, taking the worry out of the hiring process. Using responsible contractors—those who pay fair wages and benefits and prioritize health and safety measures—adds clear value to your business by improving the quality of service delivered every day, lowering workplace turnover, cultivating workforce stability and retaining a highly skilled, motivated and professional workforce. So this year, take the guesswork out of choosing your service contractors. Visit www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.org to view the most up-to-date list of contractors in your area and stay informed regarding rate changes and important news that could affect your business.
After state enforcement action triggered by worker complaints, Millennium Building Service (MBS) appears to have had to correct some of its ways. Millennium janitors clean buildings throughout the Portland area, including buildings at Nike World Headquarters, Daimler Trucks of North America, some buildings at Portland State University, and downtown office buildings. Millennium janitors filed complaints with Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) in September alleging wage theft, underpayment of wages, and denial of legally protected sick time. BOLI already found that Millennium was not in compliance with the law protecting sick time for at least one janitor who cleans at Nike World Headquarters. Other wage and hour complaints against Millennium are still pending. Janitors opened their mail last week to find a notice from their company with an updated sick time policy. One even received a check for back wages. Others have reported feeling intimidated by managers after their complaints were filed, but that has not deterred workers on their path to a union. John Funderhide, an MBS janitor at Nike said, “This is a step forward in our campaign to form our union with SEIU Local 49 and raise standards in the janitorial industry. I’m pumped!”
When Daimler Trucks of North America received up to $20 million in city and state subsidies to construct its new headquarters, the company committed to bringing good jobs to Portland as part of the deal. Because Daimler’s janitors are employed by subcontractor Millennium Building Services, and subcontractors aren’t covered by the good jobs commitment, their jobs aren’t required to meet the criteria Daimler agreed to follow. Janitors are asking Daimler to follow the spirit of their commitment and to help raise job quality standards for subcontractors. On October 25, MBS janitors brought their concerns to a public meeting of Prosper Portland’s commissioners, since Prosper Portland invested millions in Daimler’s HQ. They requested the agency ask Daimler to practice responsible contracting. Prosper Portland has offered mediation services, but Daimler has refused, and continues to rebuff dialogue with janitors. Janitors were shocked by Daimler’s response when a community delegation went to the headquarters in June to discuss janitors’ job quality. Daimler staff refused to accept a letter addressed to their CEO, and threatened to call 911.
National Maintenance Contractors (NMC), the company Zeller Realty Group chose to clean Umpqua Bank Plaza, sells dubious franchises to janitors—reportedly often to immigrant workers with limited English proficiency—through contracts that charge thousands of dollars in fees for the right to service Zeller’s customer accounts. Recently, the Oregon Court of Appeals ruled that NMC must back pay the state approximately $138,000 in unemployment insurance taxes because these “franchisees” are legally employees. Findings in the case include: Franchisees (janitors) had to pay thousands of dollars to work for NMC. Some franchisees waited months for NMC to provide the work they had paid for. NMC deducted from franchisees’ income up to 51% of what building owners and property managers paid, including a 25% service fee if franchisees wanted assurance they could keep working after their first year. Franchisees were not paid for extra hours worked, such as when cleaning extra messes after an office party or correcting deficient work. Additionally, in 2004, Willamette Week reported “the bogus ‘franchises’ that janitorial company National Maintenance Contractors has been peddling to poor immigrants are rife with roguery … NMC lures franchisees, usually non‐English speakers with no business experience, with the promise of owning their own janitorial company.”
On Halloween, janitors and community supporters visited Umpqua Bank Plaza to share frightening news with tenants about the janitorial company selected to clean the building. Umpqua Bank Plaza first caught the attention of community leaders this summer, when new building owner Zeller Realty replaced its union janitorial company with National Maintenance Contractors (NMC). As Willamette Week reported in 2004, “the bogus ‘franchises’ that janitorial contractor National Maintenance Contractors has been peddling to poor immigrants are rife with roguery… NMC lures franchisees, usually non-English speakers with no business experience, with the promise of owning their own janitorial company.” NMC continues its franchising practices. Last month, the Oregon Court of Appeals upheld a ruling that NMC must back-pay the State approximately $138,000 in unemployment insurance taxes because its “franchisees” are legally employees. Additionally, the court found: Franchisees (janitors) had to pay thousands of dollars to work for NMC. Some franchisees waited months for NMC to provide the work they had paid for. NMC deducted from franchisees’ income up to 51% of what building owners and property managers paid, including a 25% service fee if franchisees wanted assurance they could keep working after their first year. Franchisees were not paid for extra hours worked, such as when cleaning extra messes after an office party or correcting deficient work. As part of the Raise America campaign, community members continue to call on Umpqua Bank Plaza management to reverse course and restore good jobs to their building in the heart of downtown.
Millennium Building Service (MBS) janitors, who clean the offices of major corporations and institutions across Portland, filed complaints with the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries (BOLI) on Wednesday, 9/20, alleging wage theft, underpayment of wages, and denial of legally-protected sick time. A group of janitors visited the BOLI offices asking for action to reclaim back wages and recognition for their rights on the job. MBS janitors clean buildings at Nike World Headquarters, Daimler Trucks’ North American Headquarters, and office buildings owned by Portland State University. As part of Raise America PDX actions, community supporters signed onto a letter asking why companies like Daimler and Nike, which received massive public subsidies to build their facilities, are failing to provide good jobs for blue-collar workers. In 2012, Nike secured a deal to freeze their current low tax rate for 30 years. Daimler received nearly $20 million in city and state subsidies to build its new headquarters. Both companies are now in the spotlight as janitors from their buildings raise concerns about poverty wages, unaffordable health insurance, and complaints filed with BOLI’s wage and hour division. In June, MBS janitors delivered a letter to their company asking for a fair process to form their union. Janitors are also calling on clients of MBS to practice responsible contracting, choosing janitorial contractors where clients know that their vendor’s employees have basic benefits, job protections, and a tried and true dispute resolution process. Investing with a union contractor is one of the best ways to guarantee that you are using a responsible contractor.
Hundreds demonstrate at Umpqua Bank Plaza to urge real estate company to hire responsible janitorial contractor
Members of SEIU Local 49 joined Kaiser Permanente healthcare workers and community activists in a demonstration outside Umpqua Bank Plaza on August 25. Hundreds participated in the rally, which was the latest in a series of efforts to urge the Chicago-based property owner, Zeller Realty Group, to reverse its consequential decision to replace a union janitorial company with a low-road contractor. Check out the story on KGW! Zeller Realty Group entered the Portland real estate market with its purchase of Umpqua Bank Plaza in January, 2017. After seven months, Zeller replaced their janitorial contractor with National Maintenance Contractors, a company with a documented history of employment‐related problems. The decision resulted in the loss of seven living‐wage jobs that offered janitors affordable healthcare and a voice on the job. Maria Jimenez, an SEIU Local 49 janitor, worked in Umpqua Bank Plaza for over nine years. She recently had a baby and was able to take advantage of affordable healthcare and short-term disability benefits through her union employer. In her previous nonunion work, she had to pay thousands out of pocket for the birth of her older child and return to work after only a couple of weeks. With the recent switch, Maria is no longer at the building. “I’m lucky that I was able to find another job with fair wages and benefits,” said Maria, “but the workers who replaced me here don’t have those same guarantees.” National Maintenance Contractors has a history of paying low wages and misclassifying workers, which means workers do not have access to basic benefits like worker’s compensation. The company has also faced multiple legal challenges regarding its contested relationship with its cleaners, and in 2003 settled a lawsuit brought by janitors who accused the business of deceptive practices. “This maneuver to a low‐road contractor is an affront to the standards Portland‐area service workers have worked so hard to raise,” said Maggie Long, executive director of SEIU Local 49. “Building tenants have also reached out to Zeller to ask them to hire a responsible contractor, but they refused to listen.” Low‐cost service providers with poor wages and benefits can be detrimental to building tenants and visitors. Lower standards lead to higher employee turnover, which translates into inconsistent cleaning quality, and diminished safety and security due to new workers cycling through the building. Also, low‐road contracting decisions often generate negative press and expose companies to increased workplace hazards, risks, and legal liability. “We’re seeing this time and time again, and people have had enough,” said Tracy Johnson, registration representative at Sunnybrook Medical Center in Clackamas. “Companies like Zeller Realty come to our area and invest in property, but they don’t invest in communities. And it’s in our community’s best interest to keep good jobs in our city so families can continue living here.”
Recently, Chicago-based Zeller Realty Group bought the Umpqua Bank Plaza building and decided to switch janitorial contractors, bringing in one with a documented history of paying low wages and benefits. Now janitors in this building – like Maria Jimenez – are threatened by the possibility of losing their good jobs. If Zeller wants a new janitorial company to clean Umpqua Bank Plaza, it has several options that are responsible union contractors. “My name is Maria. I just had a baby and because I work for a union janitorial company with affordable healthcare, I did not have to pay a lot. I was also planning to care for him at home for 12 weeks. Now, I am able to support my family with the fair wage I earn. But when contractors change, the janitors in a building are no longer guaranteed the fair wages and benefits that come with responsible contractors.” -Maria Jimenez, Able Janitor cleaning Umpqua Building, 9 years Keep good jobs in this building. A new janitorial company is supposed to start July 15th. Contact the Property Manager, Melissa Batchelor, at firstname.lastname@example.org and (503) 412-4824 to let her know that you want the building to stay with a responsible union contractor.
Portland-area janitors took action to stand up for good jobs, as part of a nationally coordinated day of action. Low-wage janitors stood with faith leaders, union members, other non-union workers, and community supporters to demand that Millennium Building Services (MBS) create good jobs for working Oregonians. On a day that marks 27 years since a major turning point in the janitorial industry, Portland janitors are continuing the legacy of the Justice for Janitors! movement. Workers and their supporters started the day by delivering a letter calling on MBS management to agree to a fair process to form their union. The group then boarded a bus to Daimler’s North American Headquarters, a facility cleaned by MBS janitors, to ask that Daimler do the right thing by all employees who work in their new, state-of-the-art, taxpayer-supported building, not just those they directly employ. In an interview by local press, the group made a public call for profitable companies like Daimler to invest in good jobs, affordable health insurance, and a living-wage economy that benefits the broader Portland community. For nearly three decades, the Justice for Janitors movement has helped low-wage workers achieve a better life and has earned broad-based support from the public as well as religious, political and community leaders. More than 225,000 janitors in cities across the country have united in SEIU, America’s largest union of property services workers. On June 15, 1990, a peaceful Justice for Janitors march and protest in greater Los Angeles turned into something more. When striking workers linked arms to cross a street, police officers beat them with batons, injuring dozens. This painful moment only strengthened the resolve of the janitors, galvanizing public support and spurring the main janitorial contractor to sign a union contract that provided workers a living raise with health insurance and guaranteed benefits. That victory has inspired janitors nationwide – including more than 2,000 SEIU Local 49 members in Oregon and Southwest Washington – to continue fighting for justice for themselves, their families and communities, and low-wages workers in other industries.
Millennium Building Services is a commercial cleaning and maintenance company based on Portland’s Swan Island. It serves some of the biggest companies in our area – Nike, Providence Health Services, and a number of downtown skyscrapers. It seems to be doing good business, having acquired other local janitorial companies in recent years. Things aren’t so rosy for the women and men who do the cleaning for Millennium. Employees have reported: Being stuck with low or poverty wages even after years of loyalty to the company. Struggling to pay bills every month. Living in crowded housing with other families because they can’t afford to pay rent on their own. Being unable to afford the cost of the health insurance Millennium offers. People end up paying huge medical bills or else simply not going to the doctor when needed. Fearing reprisal from managers who have warned against calling in sick, despite state law that guarantees them paid sick time. Feeling disrespected by supervisors and managers. To resolve these problems, Millennium workers are forming a union with SEIU Local 49. Millennium Building Service janitors work hard every night and every day to clean the buildings of wealthy corporations. They are fighting for good jobs, with respect, fair pay, and affordable health insurance. Millennium employees have requested that their management commit to a fair process for workers to form a union if they choose. We are calling on Millennium to agree to that fair process, to be an industry leader, and to create good jobs that can support a family.
Daimler Trucks of North America unveiled its new headquarters in Portland in 2016. This sleek, state-of-the-art, LEED Platinum certified building was constructed with up to $20 million in incentives from city and state agencies. As part of that incentive package, Daimler promised to create good jobs for its employees. If Daimler chooses to contract out to another company, however, those workers are excluded from this good jobs agreement. And when Daimler chose Millennium Building Services to clean the new building, it brought in a largely low-wage, immigrant workforce that might not define their employment as “good jobs.” Workers have reported low wages even after years of loyalty to the company and unaffordable health insurance. Daimler should extend its commitment to good jobs for everyone who works in their building, including employees of service contractors like Millennium Building Services. We are asking Daimler to insist that the company that cleans its building is a Responsible Contractor that meets industry standards for wages, benefits, and respect for workers’ rights. Daimler’s LEED Platinum certification demonstrates the company’s commitment to environmental sustainability. We want to see a stronger commitment to the sustainability of the lives of people who clean their building every night and every day – the sustainability of their children and their families and their communities.