TMT Development, Stoel Rives, Face Lawsuit Over Janitorial Contractor

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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.

The lawsuit names Park Avenue West tenants Stoel Rives, Endeavor Capital, Guardian Real Estate, Morgan Stanley Smith Barney, and the City of Portland as defendants. The claim centers around the construction of TMT Development’s Park Avenue West building. The building, stalled in 2009 after the onset of the great recession, was completed in 2016 after TMT Development and Sturgeon received approval from the city to change the building’s design.

As part of the City of Portland’s approval of the project, among other conditions and commitments, TMT Development committed to invest in the City by using a union janitorial company to clean commercial office space. Three years later, the building has no union-represented janitors. Instead, TMT Development passed the buck to building tenants, claiming they would hire their own janitorial providers.

TMT Development’s refusal to take responsibility for their decision now ensnares the tenants of the building, along with the city, which failed to fully enforce the agreement.

As the dispute turns now to the courtroom, janitors took to the streets on Friday, June 14 to remind TMT Development’s Sturgeon what this is about: jobs that provide a basic living to Portlanders.

“As janitors, we’ve fought for over 15 years to win respect, fair wages, and basic access to healthcare. We’ll be here to make sure TMT Development and every other developer in downtown keeps good jobs in Portland.”  
 —Renato Quintero, janitor and Vice President of SEIU local 49.  

The Justice for Janitors Day rally outside Park Avenue West where janitors announced their lawsuit in Portland coincided with demonstrations from New York City to Los Angeles, thousands of ongoing fight for living wages and affordable health insurance. Marking 29 years since California janitors were attacked as they peacefully protested, Justice for Janitors Day calls attention to the working conditions of immigrant janitors fighting for dignity on the job.