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Portland’s Union Janitors and Security Officers Unite in Pursuit of Fair Contracts

Expiring June 30: the union contracts covering the janitors and security officers who clean and secure Portland’s downtown, Lloyd District,...
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Portland’s Union Janitors and Security Officers Unite in Pursuit of Fair Contracts

Recent News

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

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. 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. 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.

Portland cityscape

Enhancing Security: Union Security Officers Serve Key Role in Portland’s Essential Services Districts

Union officers are restoring safety and vitality to Portland’s commercial districts. Union security officers with GardaWorld and Securitas Security Services are on the frontlines of the effort to improve public safety in Portland’s Essential Services Districts (ESDs) and commercial business districts. Portland’s Essential Services Districts are a collaborative approach to enhancing security in our commercial business districts. Portland’s existing ESDs span downtown and the Central Eastside and use a multifaceted approach to public safety that includes a partnership between Portland Police officers and private security officers.  With union-guaranteed living wages, affordable benefits, and important worker protections, these companies can maintain a stable and experienced workforce capable of meeting the challenges of our recovering urban centers. With their extensive training and commitment to public safety, Garda and Securitas officers have become trusted guardians of Portland’s urban landscape.  Advocating for City-Wide Expansion  Portland’s Essential Services Districts have been leading the way towards restoring Portlanders’ pride in our region. But there remains untapped potential for further improvement. Expanding these districts city-wide could extend the benefits of enhanced security to all corners of Portland.  By broadening the geographic scope of ESDs, Portland can create a more comprehensive security framework that would not only improve safety and security for businesses, residents, and visitors, but could also open new possibilities for community collaboration.   Strengthening Security Partnerships  Increased collaboration among security contractors could help strengthen safety and security in downtown Portland by harnessing collective expertise and resources. Through coordinated communication and joint training exercises, union security contractors could create a seamless security and response network that could effectively address incidents more quickly and effectively.  SEIU Local 49 is committed to supporting the development of collaborative security partnerships among union security contractors that could enhance the efficiency of security operations while maximizing safety benefits for commercial building owners, tenants, downtown residents, and visitors.

Portland Janitors Stand Up to JPMorgan Chase for Fair Pay and Good Benefits at Brewery Blocks in Downtown Portland!

Nearly a hundred Portland-area janitors and their allies demonstrated today outside M Financial Plaza and the Whole Foods Building, two office buildings in the Pearl District’s Brewery Blocks. The workers were protesting that the buildings’ owner, JPMorgan Chase – the largest bank in the U.S. – is using a non-union janitorial company with a history of violating workers’ rights.  The union janitors first sounded the alarm about this decision in the fall when local property manager Arke Management decided to dump the union janitors who had long cleaned the buildings. After weeks of outreach by SEIU Local 49 and the community to Arke Management and the buildings’ tenants, a representative from owner JPMorgan Chase doubled down on the decision to go non-union.  I’m forever thankful for the property manager and the Brewery Blocks tenants for using a union janitorial company all these years. My union job was a blessing. I had healthcare, great benefits, and a pension that allowed me to retire last month!  I am sad to hear that Brewery Blocks is eliminating these good union jobs and moving to a non union janitorial company. My former coworkers are like family to me.  Now, they could lose everything. Keeping union jobs at this building is important. It gives people a like me a chance at a better life. I hope that Brewery Blocks will reconsider and change their decision—it’s not too late!  -Jerry Brown, Retired Brewery Blocks Janitor  Union janitors are not having it. “We have worked hard to raise standards for good jobs,” said Adela Maza, a Portland-area janitor and active member of SEIU Local 49. “We can’t just let building owners like JPMorgan Chase take that away by replacing us with non-union companies. That’s why janitors from all over this city are coming together to say we need good union jobs to support our families, in every office building.”  “I’ve been working for a union janitorial company for five years and it has made a big difference for me and my family,” Maza said. “Before that, I had no paid time off, and no way to raise any concerns without getting fired, no voice or respect on the job. Now, I feel more supported, and I have paid vacation and sick time. If someone in my family is sick, I can stay home for a day and still pay my bills.”  This week, in a survey emailed to people who work in Brewery Blocks 1 and 4, 50% of respondents said that the quality of janitorial services had gotten worse since Arke Management switched from a union to a non-union janitorial service provider. In fact, 100%of respondents said that before the switch was made, they were “very satisfied” with the original janitorial company with the unionized workforce.* — *This unscientific survey was conducted via an email sent March 6, 2024, to 105 individuals who, according to company websites and LinkedIn profiles, live or work in the Portland area and are employees of companies that lease space in Brewery Blocks 1 or 4. Two anonymous individuals who stated they currently work in one of the buildings had responded as of March 11, 2024, at 9:00 a.m.  


Our Campaign

As the national movement for good jobs and fair wages swells, janitors, security officers, and airport workers from across the country are standing up to raise standards and improve jobs for all workers in our communities.

Locally in Portland and SW Washington, janitors, security officers, and airport workers have joined together to raise standards, improve jobs, and highlight the issues associated with irresponsible janitorial and security contractors such as high-turnover, low pay, lack of dependability, lack of affordable healthcare, and all-around lower standards.

By using responsible contractors in their market, building owners and other clients of subcontractors can take steps to ensure that subcontracted workers hold safe, good jobs and are treated with respect. Responsible contracting reduces the risk of labor disruption and lowers turnover—thereby increasing efficiency and workplace stability—by providing fair wages and benefits that workers deserve.