Spotlight: Public Protests Highlight Troubling Developments at Brewery Blocks 1 and 4, JP Morgan’s Questionable Contracting Decisions

It is time for business leaders like J.P. Morgan to reimagine what Portland can be by investing in good, union jobs in our community.

People hold up a banner that says, "Union Jobs Now!"

J.P. Morgan Asset Management owns commercial buildings Brewery Blocks 1 and 4 in the Pearl District in Portland, Oregon. Their property management team recently terminated its janitorial services contract with a responsible union contractor and instead awarded the contract to Millennium Building Services, a company with a worrisome track record regarding its working conditions. 

The union jobs provided by responsible contractors ensure that commercial real estate owners, tenants, and investors enjoy high-quality building services delivered by an experienced and highly trained workforce. In contrast, eliminating union family-wage jobs drives a race to the bottom in industry standards and can leave commercial buildings more vulnerable to the pitfalls of high turnover. 

Highlighting these concerns, over 100 SEIU Local 49 janitors and supporters took action in March, gathering in the Brewery Blocks to protest J.P. Morgan Asset Management’s decision to switch to a non-union contractor. The union jobs that were eliminated had provided union janitors fair wages, paid time off, and access to affordable healthcare that workers and their families depend on.

A woman with a megaphone

Maggie Long, Executive Director of SEIU Local 49, expresses a vision for a community where everyone thrives: “We’re committed to a downtown Portland that is safe, clean, and welcoming. Good, union jobs are essential to achieving this vision. While we applaud companies like Unico and American Asset Trust for their commitment to union labor, we are disheartened by J.P. Morgan’s decision to cut union positions. We urge them to reconsider and support the hardworking people who are the backbone of our city.”  

Downtown Portland is at a turning point as we emerge from the devastating effects of the Covid-19 pandemic and the social unrest that ensued. Our commercial spaces need business owners and leaders to lean in and invest more in our community, not less. Contracting decisions like the one made by J.P. Morgan Asset Management could have the unintended effect of exacerbating the social unrest we have seen downtown by contributing to worker’s economic stress and uncertainty. It is time for business leaders to reimagine what Portland can be by investing in good jobs in our community. 

The Service Employees International Union represents two million workers across the country including the union janitors and security officers who have played a crucial role in the effort to restore and revitalize commercial real estate assets in the post-pandemic recovery. Reimagining Portland’s economic vitality requires a commitment by commercial real estate owners and property managers to invest in good jobs, to ensure that Portland can return to a healthier economy for all of us.

People marching wearing "Unions for All" shirts