Union-backed coalition pushes bold vision for Broadway corridor project


Should Portlanders allow their city to become a playground for the rich, or should they fight for a city that provides high quality jobs and housing for residents of all income levels?

That’s a real question the city faces as it considers how to redevelop 32 publicly-owned acres near the Broadway Bridge. Known as the Broadway Corridor, the area includes the former U.S. Postal Service site and several other city blocks owned by the city’s development agency, Prosper Portland (formerly known as the Portland Development Commission.) Prosper Portland has plans to develop the area as a site of high-density employment and signature city attractions connecting the Old Town/ Chinatown and Pearl District neighborhoods.

But a carefully developed union-community coalition is putting forward its own vision — which calls for the construction of affordable and accessible housing, the creation of good union jobs both during the building phase and when the development is complete, and opportunities for women and minorities to get experience in the building trades as workers and contractors. The Healthy Communities Coalition formed three years ago, with about a dozen business, environmental and community groups plus seven unions: Service Employees Local 49, Oregon AFSCME, Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757,  IBEW Local 48, Pacific NW Regional Council of Carpenters, Portland Firefighters, and Professional & Technical Employees Local 17.

“We are tired of being pitted against one another,” said Vivian Satterfield, deputy director of the environmental justice group OPAL, which helped form the coalition. “We need to tie our fates together as workers, as people with environment interests, and those striving for representation and a voice along racial and social justice lines.”

The coalition presented its vision to Prosper Portland at a July 25 meeting. With any luck, it won’t be a hard sell. Prosper Portland’s slogan is “Building an Equitable Economy.” And one of its board members is union building trades leader Willy Myers, who helped negotiate community benefits agreements and project labor agreements at the City of Portland and Multnomah County that ensure both that the work is done union and that women and minority apprentices and journeymen have opportunities on the job. Myers chairs a steering committee that is advising Prosper Portland on what course to chart for the Broadway Corridor.

On April 11, the Prosper Portland board chose Continuum Partners of Denver as the project’s “master plan advisers.” Prosper Portland and Continuum have committed to sign a “community benefits agreement” CBA that would work with unions to meet goals for women and minority participation in the workforce. The details are expected to be worked out by next spring. The Healthy Communities Coalition is calling for the agreement to be at least as strong as the model CBA the City of Portland worked out with the Metropolitan Alliance for Workforce Equity.


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