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 firstname.lastname@example.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.
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
Portland-area janitors are taking action to win good jobs and urge decision-makers to hire responsible contractors
Janitors and security officers who clean, service, and secure the commercial real estate, high tech, public services, and apparel industries in Oregon and SW Washington are united with workers from across the West Coast in their campaign to win a new three-year contract with their employers. Janitors are coming together at their worksites to show unity around their campaign and to highlight the important role they play. “As tenants start to return to offices, it is imperative that proper cleaning and security protocols are in place, and that frontline workers are trained, have experience at their site, have access to affordable healthcare, and have paid time off so they do not need to come to work sick. We have gone from invisible to essential.”— Santa Gonzalez, Janitor, ABM Portland and SW Washington janitors, members of SEIU Local 49, are united with close to 40,000 janitors throughout the West who are in bargaining. Listen: Justice for Janitors Day: Workers Highlight Efforts During Pandemic Read the article here. Janitors call on Harrison Square Owners to Build Back Better Janitors and their allies called on the owners of Harrison Square, Libertas Companies, to invest in a Responsible Union Contractor. Libertas pulled some fast moves last year: after buying the building, they ditched their long-time responsible Union contractor, leaving janitors and their families in the lurch. Libertas instead contracted with Expresso Building Services, a contractor currently under investigation by Oregon’s Bureau of Labor and Industries for apparent violations of basic contractor registration requirements, which were developed to protect workers from exploitation at the hands of fly-by-night contractors. Expresso Building Services holds a “red” rating from ResponsibleContractorGuide.com, which tracks janitorial and security contractors’ adherence to area workplace standards and protections on the job. The company is subject to an investigation and audit by the Bureau of Labor and Industries, an investigation now entering its second year. BOLI’s investigation may be broad ranging but began after Expresso was found to have operated for nearly 18 months without a janitorial contractor license. Building owners and managers hiring unlicensed contractors can be found to be jointly and severally liable for, among other liabilities, unpaid wages and benefits. Contractors listed as responsible on www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.com are verified to be licensed, as well as to meet area standards for wages, benefits, and working conditions. Should a dispute arise, Responsible Union Contractors have dispute resolution system that will keep building owners and managers off the front pages and out of the courtrooms, as well as keeping workers’ rights protected. Portland Business Community finds unexpected ally in support for Safe Rest Villages: the janitor and security officer Union SEIU Local 49 supports Commissioner Ryan’s Safe Rest Villages Plan, weighing in with City officials, and publicly supporting the plan. While opposition to placement of the sites is expected, the Black, brown, immigrant, and low-wage service workers – janitors and security officers of SEIU Local 49 – add an additional, important voice of support. Portland chatter can lend itself to demonizing property owners, suggesting their plans are self-serving, but that is just not the case; support from an organization of workers whose livelihoods depend on our city’s success makes a difference. “Janitors and Security Officers depend on our downtown buildings being full. They have worked hard to raise standards and create good jobs for service workers, but those jobs do not exist without our downtown offices full.” – Maggie Long, Executive Director Still using a nonunion janitorial contractor? NMC clients learn the hard way about the risk potential of using low road contractors. Washington A.G. Sues National Maintenance Contractors, Alleging Exploitation and Deceptive Practices A wave of accountability for low-road janitorial contractors continues, as Washington State Attorney General Bob Ferguson filed a consumer protection lawsuit on April 6 against non union janitorial contractor National Maintenance Contractors/NMC Franchising. The state alleges that the company “locks franchisees into deceptive contracts that often leave them earning less than minimum wage.” In an online statement, A.G. Ferguson said, “National took advantage of immigrants with limited English proficiency and promised them the independence of business ownership. Unfortunately, in reality, National locked its franchisees into contracts that often left them earning less than minimum wage, paying exorbitant fees, and with little ability to advocate for themselves.” National/NMC has a decades-long history of wage theft and legal problems related to its employees. NMC is also being sued separately by 35 janitors from Washington and Oregon for alleged wage theft and racketeering, among other claims. Building owners and managers in the Portland area are leaning to turn to Responsible Union Contractors for the janitorial and security services to avoid the risks of doing business with cost-cutting low-road contractors like NMC. To find a responsible contractor in your area, visit www.ResponsibleContractorGuide.org
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.