Port of Portland passes new ‘social equity’ policy

At its April 8 meeting, the Port of Portland Board of Commissioners approved the first piece of a new “social equity” policy to help airport service workers.

Members and staff of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and UNITE HERE have been turning up at commission meetings for over a year to ask for a policy to help low-wage airport service workers.

The new resolution may improve job security for some workers when service or concessions contracts change hands.

When a new airport service contractor comes in, like a company that cleans cabins, handles baggage or helps disabled passengers, the company would have to hire at least 80 percent of its employees from among the employees of the contractor it replaced. SEIU spokesperson Jesse Stemmler said he wasn’t aware of any such contracts that are currently coming up for renewal. But the policy would apply when those contracts change hands, as long as the company has at least the equivalent of 50 full-time employees at the airport.

Meanwhile, for concessions workers at airport cafes and gift shops, the policy establishes a PDX Labor Pool made up of laid-off workers from old concessionaires that new concessionaires could tap into for hiring. Participation by both employees and employers would be voluntary. For every individual hired from the pool, an employer would receive an incentive payment of $1,000 from the Port, with $500 of it going to the worker.

The Port will also help employers offer reduced-cost TriMet passes to airport workers.

But another element of the draft policy was sent to a work group for further discussion: A proposal that the Port require future concessions contractors to provide workers at least $13 an hour in total compensation.

The resolution passed 7 to 1, and had the support of Port Commissioner  Tom Chamberlain, who is president  of the Oregon AFL-CIO.  The sole dissenting vote was Eastern Oregon farm owner Robert Levy.

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