Portland-area janitors are taking action to win good jobs and urge decision-makers to hire responsible contractors

Janitors and security officers who clean, service, and secure the commercial real estate, high tech, public services, and apparel industries in Oregon and SW Washington are united with workers from across the West Coast in their campaign to win a new three-year contract with their employers. Janitors are coming together at their worksites to show unity around their campaign and to highlight the important role they play.

“As tenants start to return to offices, it is imperative that proper cleaning and security protocols are in place, and that frontline workers are trained, have experience at their site, have access to affordable healthcare, and have paid time off so they do not need to come to work sick. We have gone from invisible to essential.”— Santa Gonzalez, Janitor, ABM 

Portland and SW Washington janitors, members of SEIU Local 49, are united with close to 40,000 janitors throughout the West who are in bargaining.

Listen: Justice for Janitors Day: Workers Highlight Efforts During Pandemic

Read the article here.

Janitors call on Harrison Square Owners to Build Back Better 

Janitors and their allies called on the owners of Harrison Square, Libertas Companies, to invest in a Responsible Union Contractor. Libertas pulled some fast moves last year: after buying the building, they ditched their long-time responsible Union contractor, leaving janitors and their families in the lurch. Libertas instead contracted with Expresso Building Services, a contractor currently under investigation by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries for apparent violations of basic contractor registration requirements, which were developed to protect workers from exploitation at the hands of fly-by-night contractors.  

Expresso Building Services holds a “red” rating from ResponsibleContractorGuide.com, which tracks janitorial and security contractors’ adherence to area workplace standards and protections on the job. The company is subject to an investigation and audit by the Bureau of Labor and Industries, an investigation now entering its second year. BOLI’s investigation may be broad ranging but began after Expresso was found to have operated for nearly 18 months without a janitorial contractor license. Building owners and managers hiring unlicensed contractors can be found to be jointly and severally liable for, among other liabilities, unpaid wages and benefits.  

Contractors listed as responsible on www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.com are verified to be licensed, as well as to meet area standards for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Should a dispute arise, Responsible Union Contractors have dispute resolution system that will keep building owners and managers off the front pages and out of the courtrooms, as well as keeping workers’ rights protected.  

Portland Business Community finds unexpected ally in support for Safe Rest Villages: the janitor and security officer Union 

SEIU Local 49 supports Commissioner Ryan’s Safe Rest Villages Plan, weighing in with City officials, and publicly supporting the plan. While opposition to placement of the sites is expected, the Black, brown, immigrant, and low-wage service workers – janitors and security officers of SEIU Local 49 – add an additional, important voice of support. Portland chatter can lend itself to demonizing property owners, suggesting their plans are self-serving, but that is just not the case; support from an organization of workers whose livelihoods depend on our city’s success makes a difference.  

“Janitors and Security Officers depend on our downtown buildings being full.  They have worked hard to raise standards and create good jobs for service workers, but those jobs do not exist without our downtown offices full.” – Maggie Long, Executive Director  

Still using a nonunion janitorial contractor? NMC clients learn the hard way about the risk potential of using low road contractors.  

Washington A.G. Sues National Maintenance Contractors, Alleging Exploitation and Deceptive Practices 

A wave of accountability for low-road janitorial contractors continues, as Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit on April 6 against non union janitorial contractor National Maintenance Contractors/NMC Franchising. The state alleges that the company “locks franchisees into deceptive contracts that often leave them earning less than minimum wage.” 

In an online statement, A.G. Ferguson said, “National took advantage of immigrants with limited English proficiency and promised them the independence of business ownership. Unfortunately, in reality, National locked its franchisees into contracts that often left them earning less than minimum wage, paying exorbitant fees, and with little ability to advocate for themselves.” 

National/NMC has a decades-long history of wage theft and legal problems related to its employees. NMC is also being sued separately by 35 janitors from Washington and Oregon for alleged wage theft and racketeering, among other claims. 

Building owners and managers in the Portland area are leaning to turn to Responsible Union Contractors for the janitorial and security services to avoid the risks of doing business with cost-cutting low-road contractors like NMC. To find a responsible contractor in your area, visit www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.org