Abhe & Svoboda fires union salt amid safety complaints

It’s steady rain in the hour before dawn March 15 as passersby and workers are greeted with a banner and fliers by organizers from Painters District Council 5. The target: nonunion Abhe & Svoboda, contracted to repaint the underside of the Ross Island Bridge. “Let James Svoboda know that it is not okay for him to discriminate against employees who report safety issues and job conditions,” says the flier.

Nonunion paint contractor Abhe & Svoboda is under increasing scrutiny for its management of a $22 million Oregon Department of Transportation (ODOT) painting project underneath the Ross Island Bridge.

Oregon OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) is still investigating a Feb. 8 accident in which a worker fell 40 feet and landed on another worker, sending both to the hospital after a Portland Fire Bureau ladder rescue.

Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries is investigating  a pair of civil rights complaints filed Feb. 28 by an African-American Navy veteran who was fired Feb. 4. Among other things, the worker says Abhe & Svoboda badly mishandled a complaint about sexual harassment, tolerated an atmosphere of racial hostility, and fired her in retaliation for making a safety complaint — after she was injured on the job.

Finally, the National Labor Relations Board is investigating charges that the company fired worker Omar Rubi Feb. 16 in retaliation for legally protected activity — including telling coworkers they have the right to voice safety concerns. Rubi, a union salt, spoke with the Labor Press, and before the ink was dry on our Feb. 17 story, was fired in person by company president James Svoboda — right after a site visit from agents of ODOT and OSHA.

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