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City Hall janitors challenge Beaverton's move

City to contract with non-union Tualatin Valley Workshop


by: TIMES PHOTO: SHANNON O. WELLS - City of Beaverton janitors, members of the Service Employees International Union Local 49 chapter, march in front of City Hall on Southwest Griffith Drive to protest a city contract with a non-union company for the new building at The Round.Union-affiliated janitors who work at Beaverton City Hall object to a city plan to hire a non-union business to staff custodians in the new City Hall at The Round at Beaverton Central, but city officials maintain the move will save taxpayer money and potentially increase union employment opportunities when the older building is expanded.

About 40 janitors employed by the Portland Habilitation Center and affiliated with Service Employees International Union Local 49 chapter, marched and chanted in front of City Hall on Griffith Drive at lunchtime on Friday to protest a city plan to hire the non-union Tualatin Valley Workshop to clean City Hall when it moves to the South Office Building — newly named the Beaverton Building — at 12527 S.W. Millikan Way.

The city is preparing to sign a one-year, $194,000 contract with the workshop for services in 108,000 square feet on floors one, four and five of the new building.

The city’s $348,948 contract with PHC, which covers 182,000 square feet in seven city buildings including Griffith Drive, will remain in place.

The non-union Tualatin Valley Workshop pays $10-$12 per hour for regular worker wages as opposed to the PHC’s $13.15 hourly wage. Workshop supervisors are paid $15 an hour, with those at PHC earning an hourly wage of $16.15.

Minimum wage in Oregon is $9.10 per hour.

Union leaders and PHC janitors say it’s unfair and inconsistent for the city to hire a non-union company that pays lower wages to clean its new administrative headquarters.

Pros and cons

Nicole Knudsen, strategic researcher for the SEIU Local 49, marched at the Friday rally and addressed the City Council on Tuesday evening.

“The city’s recent decision to award a no-bid contract to a non-union contractor now raises some serious concerns regarding the city’s ongoing commitment to investing in good jobs,” she said. “There are significant and troubling differences between PHC and TVW regarding wages and benefits. Janitors with TVW earn at least $2 an hour less than janitors with PHC, a huge difference in a low-wage industry.”

A PHC janitor working in City Hall earns $27,973 per year, while a TVW janitor working in the Beaverton Building stands to earn $23,816 per year, a situation that places “workers’ earnings beneath the federal poverty line for a family of four of $23,850 per year,” Knudsen said.

The workshop, like the Habilitation Center, employs people with various disabilities. The city is required by state law to hire janitorial and other service employees through the Qualified Rehabilitation Facility Contracting Program, noted Holly Thompson, the city’s strategic initiatives and communications manager. The city contracts with PHC and Diversified Abilities but has yet to work with the Hillsboro-based TVW.

“We did not have a relationship with (the workshop), which is the only one of the three (rehabilitation businesses) based in Washington County,” Thompson said. “It’s a good part of the decision-making process to work with the third one.”

In addition to saving a projected $13,000 in taxpayer money, Thompson said the move will retain PHC employees at City Hall on Griffith Drive, its two libraries and four other buildings. She said the service employees’ union would benefit if a plan to revamp City Hall into the city’s Public Safety Building comes to fruition.

The Griffith Drive building would expand from about 75,000 square feet to 130,000 square feet, requiring more janitorial staff than the three currently on rotation in the building.

“PHC will continue to serve this building during the time the police and courts will occupy it,” Thompson said. “PHC has far and away the majority of city buildings, and that will continue to be the case. That relationship will continue, with more services needed for the larger building.”