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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...
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You’re a Mean One, Arke Management

The Grinch Who Stole Christmas:   Arke Management Dumps Union Janitors in the Pearl District’s Brewery Blocks Just In Time for the Holidays  Holiday shoppers are bustling through Portland’s Pearl District, buying gifts, eating and drinking—but not everyone is bringing the cheer.   Just before the holidays, property management company Arke Management dumped the union janitors who used to clean M Financial Plaza and the Whole Foods Building, two of the landmark Brewery Block buildings adjacent to Burnside Street and Powell’s City of Books.  “I’ve been working as a union janitor for eight years, and I’m 63 years old. I am so close to retirement, and I wouldn’t want to be left without medical insurance, my pension, and other benefits we are receiving here.” —Nadia Reprintseva, union janitor at the Brewery Blocks Arke Management reportedly wanted to switch to a different janitorial company. Nothing wrong with that. More than a dozen janitorial companies in the Portland area (listed in SEIU’s Responsible Contractors Guide) have a union contract with their workers, guaranteeing good health insurance, paid vacation time, retirement contributions, and a voice on the job.   Instead, Arke Management chose Millennium Building Services, a non-union firm that has a record of violating workers’ rights and a high rate of employee turnover.  One displaced janitor, Nadia Reprintseva, said, “I’ve been working as a union janitor for eight years, and I’m 63 years old. I am so close to retirement, and I wouldn’t want to be left without medical insurance, my pension, and other benefits we are receiving here. I would like to work these last few years and be grateful for this opportunity. Please, allow me to remain here at this job and to keep my union membership.”  Do Arke Management and Brewery Blocks businesses really want to save a few dollars on the backs of the janitors who keep their buildings clean?  It’s not too late for Arke Management to change its mind, do the right thing, and choose a union janitorial company to clean Brewery Blocks 1 and 4, the Whole Foods Building and M Financial Plaza.   Here’s how YOU can help: Contact Arke Management’s Katie Smith at 503-382-8344 or katie.smith@arkemgmt.com, and ask, “Please use a union janitorial company at all of the Brewery Blocks properties you manage.”   

Six ABM Janitors Celebrate Graduating the Green Janitor Education Program

We have been collaborating with Unico Properties LLC to bring the Green Janitor Education Program to downtown Portland. Recently we celebrated six janitors of ABM Janitorial at the Moda Tower completing the program! The Green Janitor Education Program provides education in green building practices to meet the latest energy, water, and green initiative standards. It covers topics like: Energy efficiency Recycling Waste management Water conservation …and other sustainable and green cleaning practices   “Our janitorial staff are the eyes and ears of the building, and they are absolutely essential to the successful, sustainable operations of our properties.” –Keren Eichen, Unico Properties Director, Real Estate Services     The Green Janitor Education Program provides us with the tools and resources we need to make sure we keep our jobsite safe, healthy, and environmentally friendly. Through the program, janitors are encouraged to take part in the building’s goals of better energy efficiency and building health. This means bringing recommendations on improvements to our worksites. These can include suggestions such as: Use of different cleaning products, materials, or equipment How to carry out best green practices to their daily work and much more!   “What I have learned here, I can apply at work and at home. I am grateful they took an interest in us, and that counts, because we are essential workers.” –Adela with ABM Janitorial at Moda Tower   Buildings who have used the Green Janitor Education Program to educate their staff have seen a 76% drop in energy and water use and an increase in waste diversion. Janitors who complete the 30-hour program have the potential to earn higher wages while also earning more while participating in the program. Currently, the program is only available to buildings and janitorial contractors with workers covered under bargaining agreements with our union.   “Our hope is that every building in Oregon will join this program. This program is open to any building where Union janitors are working, which fortunately means most buildings in Portland. This is an investment in frontline communities… but this isn’t just about the buildings in which they work—this is about an investment in Portland’s immigrant and communities of color. We would love to see the Green Janitor Education Program in every building in greater Portland.” –Maggie Long, SEIU Local 49 Executive Director   To learn more about the program, contact Maggie Long, SEIU Local 49 maggiel@seiu49.org or 503.236.4949 ext. 256 – The Green Janitor Education Program is a national program developed by the Building Skills Partnership with the U.S. Green Building Council-Los Angeles, the Building Owners and Managers Association of Greater Los Angeles, and the Service Employees International Union. The program in Portland is financed through a partnership between Unico Properties, SEIU Local 49, ABM Janitorial, and through grant funding provided by the Portland Clean Energy Fund.

Investing in our workplaces…and our communities

As tenants begin to return, make sure your office space is ready to welcome them back. As Janitors in Seattle and San Francisco settle contracts, that help ensure janitors are Protected, Respected, Paid, and on the job to help welcome back tenants, Portland area janitors head into their final week of bargaining a new contract. Abel Hernandez is a janitor who works in downtown Portland. During the past year, he has continued to show up at his office building to clean and sanitize to help stop the spread of the deadly coronavirus. He plays an important and risky role in keeping our community safe, and it has been a long, hard, and scary year on the frontlines of the pandemic. “We came to work every day during the pandemic,” says Hernandez, “There were times I was nervous for me and my family and the risk of COVID.  Even at times during the summer when downtown felt like a dangerous place to be, me and my coworkers were proud of the work we do keeping offices clean.” As office tenants begin to return downtown, Abel and nearly 2,000 other janitors, members of SEIU Local 49, are bargaining over the work protections, pay, and benefits they need to stay on the job. The outcome of that fight might determine whether janitors remain on the job, just as buildings begin to reopen and tenants come back, a first step in seeing our economy improve. Janitors, who come from mostly Black, Brown, and immigrant communities, work in some of greater Portland’s most high-profile office buildings, including the City of Portland, Multnomah County, Portland State, and some of Oregon’s most prominent businesses like Nike, Intel, and Adidas. Janitors are key to our recovery from the pandemic and crucial to building back the economy, especially for our communities that have been disproportionately impacted by the pandemic. The majority of downtown office buildings use Union janitorial contractors to clean and sanitize offices and public spaces, and that investment has paid off. Union Janitors have fared far better than nonunion janitors during the pandemic. Nonunion janitors reported working without PPE, little to no training, and not having access to affordable healthcare to take care of themselves, or their family members if they are ill. Janitors are calling on Portland and Oregon’s largest businesses to continue to invest in Union contractors – and invest in the training, pay, and protections needed for our post-pandemic reality. They are calling on those who do not currently use a Union janitorial company to do the right thing, and invest in a Union company, where workers have basic on-the-job protections, and access to critical benefits, like adequate sick time and affordable healthcare. The Janitor’s contract is set to expire on July 31, 2021.  By making sure that janitors are respected, protected, and paid, employers are investing in our communities. And with reopening on the horizon, it’s time to invest in the most important resource we have – the dedicated janitors who have risked their lives during the pandemic to keep our community safe. For more information on this campaign, please visit www.raiseamericapdx.org


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.