March 21, 2008 Volume 109 Number 6

Portland school board members show true colors in contract vote

It was never clear how many school board members agreed with Portland Public Schools when, for months, the district demanded pay cuts of up to 30 percent from the district’s long-suffering custodians. In the end, the district dropped that demand in union contract bargaining, and let custodians continue with nothing worse than a three-year pay freeze.

Some of the board members showed their colors, however, when the agreement went before them for ratification March 3. Three of the seven voted against the contract, arguing that the district was too generous. The three were Sonja Henning, a lawyer for Nike; Bobbie Regan, West Hills mom and wife of a Pacificorp vice president; and Trudy Sargent, a property manager and tax attorney.

PPS custodian pay ranges from $14 to $23 an hour, and most custodians earn under $20 an hour. They are represented by Service Employees Local 503.

Sargent said under this contract the district will spend $4 million a year more than it did when the schools were being cleaned by Portland Habilitation Center.

The Oregon Supreme Court ruled in 2005 that the district’s outsourcing to PHC was illegal, and PPS had to rehire the custodians it had let go.

“The millions of dollars we left on the table in this negotiation would have been better used in the classroom,” Sargent said.


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