Portland Janitors and Security Officers Win Guaranteed Job-Quality Standards in Broadway Corridor Development

The Healthy Communities Coalition (HCC) and SEIU Local 49 settled two groundbreaking agreements that will raise job quality standards and create training opportunities for janitors and security officers in the future Broadway Corridor development.

Broadway Corridor is 34 acres that connects Old Town/Chinatown and the Pearl District. Historically, the Broadway Corridor has been the home to Native, Black, Chinese, and Japanese Americans who have been forcibly displaced over the past century. Now, the City of Portland and Prosper Portland plan to use $40+ million of public tax dollars to leverage $1+ billion of private investment to redevelop an old U.S. Postal Service property, a 14-acre parcel near the west side of the Broadway Bridge. This could create nearly 4 million square feet of space in new commercial, residential, and retail buildings. The opportunity to develop a whole new neighborhood in the central city is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity.

HCC is a coalition of more than 20 organizations – representing Portland’s communities of color, environmental and environmental justice communities, small businesses, transportation justice advocates, people with disabilities and organized workers – with the shared goal of ensuring development in Portland is built on a foundation of racial equity and delivers good jobs, quality, affordable housing and opportunities to Black, Indigenous, People of Color and working class communities. For the last year, HCC has been negotiating with Prosper Portland to make good on Prosper’s promise that the Broadway Corridor project will create good jobs, affordable housing, and other community benefits.

In August, HCC, Prosper Portland and the City of Portland Housing Bureau (PHB), agreed to the terms of a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) for the Broadway Corridor project that guarantees affordable housing, sustainability measures, job quality standards for construction workers, opportunities for women and people of color in the construction trades as workers and contractors, and other benefits.

What’s innovative about this agreement is that it goes beyond the construction phase and will foster job quality for employees of service contractors once the buildings are built. The CBA includes a requirement that future building owners and tenants contribute a fraction of their costs of janitorial and security services to a workforce development fund. This fund will support trainings for service workers in topics such as preventing workplace sexual harassment and discrimination, and using green cleaning practices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

The CBA also commits all parties to collaborate in supporting janitorial and security firms owned by women, people of color, and service disabled veterans to become more competitive based on raising employee job-quality standards, rather than maximizing profits by paying low wages.

Meanwhile, SEIU Local 49 also negotiated, with HCC’s support, a separate agreement with Broadway Corridor developer Continuum Partners to guarantee good jobs for janitors and security officers. The SEIU-Continuum agreement, signed in May, requires that future owners and tenants of office buildings and large retail spaces in Broadway Corridor to choose Responsible Contractors to provide janitorial and security services. Responsible Contractors are those that compensate their workforce at or above prevailing wages and benefits, and respect and encourage the right of their employees to bargain collectively, among other criteria. SEIU Local 49 maintains a Responsible Contractor list at www.raiseamericapdx.org/responsible.

Adela Maza, a janitor and member of SEIU Local 49, addressed Prosper Portland and Continuum Partners at the negotiating table in Sep. 2019. She said, “Building owners often save money by hiring janitorial companies with no union and low wages and benefits. They make their money on our backs. I am here to ask you to make sure that this project really is different, that all jobs in Broadway Corridor are good jobs, that workers have the opportunity to negotiate a fair deal for ourselves. We want to be part of the community, not just the cheap workforce, struggling to survive in poverty.”

Today, we celebrate the victory that janitors and security officers share with so many other members of our community, in winning enforceable agreements to create good jobs, affordable housing, and other community benefits in Portland’s next new neighborhood.