Portland Jobs With Justice carried out a three-hour-long protest June 17, including a rally outside City Hall calling for a $15 minimum wage, a delegation to Skanska in support of striking ironworkers, and the brief occupation of a downtown intersection to protest the Pittock Building’s switch to a nonunion janitorial firm.
About 90 people took part in the City Hall rally, including ironworkers on strike at Instafab and a group of orange-shirted Laborers union members from around the country who were at the Hilton for a union training. A small group visited the nearby offices of general contractor Skanska to ask that the company stop subcontracting ironwork to Instafab while the strike continues. Rally-goers then marched through downtown, and were joined at O’Bryant Square by about 75 purple-shirted members of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU,) at which point the group blocked the intersection of Southwest 10th and Washington for about five minutes.
The intersection is just outside the Pittock Block, an eight-story 273,000-square-foot Class B office building built in 1914. In February, the Pittock’s building manager dumped union-signatory GCA Services Group, which employed six union janitors at $13.45 an hour plus benefits, and brought in nonunion Millennium Building Services instead. SEIU Local 49 Property Services Division Director Maggie Long thinks Millennium janitors make close to minimum wage with no benefits. Local 49 has not yet persuaded building owner Alaska Copper to reverse the change of contractor. In April, SEIU protesters filled the Pittock lobby, and building managers turned the lights off. This time, the protest was in observance of the 25th anniversary of the Century City protest at which striking union janitors were beaten by Los Angeles police when they tried to occupy an intersection. The famous attack, dramatized in the movie Bread and Roses, turned public sentiment in favor of the janitors’ cause.