Former USPS site will be a model of high-road development

On the north side of the site, a vehicle maintenance shed has been taken down and soil remediation is under way.

By Don McIntosh

Portland City Council is scheduled to vote Sept. 23 on an agreement that will ensure years of employment for union construction trades workers and enhanced opportunities in construction for women and minorities. The Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) governs the development of an all-new neighborhood where the former U.S. Postal Service mail processing facility now stands, 12 city blocks on the border between Old Town and the Pearl District in Northwest Portland. It’s the result of 11 months of negotiations between a coalition of unions and community organizations and the City’s development agency Prosper Portland. Prosper Portland will include the CBA’s terms in its development agreement with Continuum Partners of Denver, the developer it selected to manage the project. Highlights of the CBA include:

  • Prevailing wage  Publicly funded support infrastructure like streets and sewer lines were already going to pay the state prevailing wage to construction workers, but Continuum committed to voluntarily pay prevailing wage as well on privately funded vertical core and shell construction, and on tenant improvement projects of greater than 100,000 square feet. That takes wages out of competition and prevents contractors from winning the work on the basis of lower wages.
  • Project labor agreement  Continuum will direct whatever general contractors it selects to negotiate project labor agreements with local building trades unions and use union construction contractors and workers, with limited exceptions.
  • Opportunities for women, minorities and apprentices At least 30% of the construction hours will be performed by minority workers, 15% by women workers, and 20% by apprentices.
  • Opportunities for minority contractors At least 22% of the construction contract dollars will go to firms owned by women and minorities.
  • Responsible contractors only Only “responsible” contractors will be allowed to work on the project. As defined in the agreement, responsible means: 1) they’re registered as a training agent with Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries, working with an approved apprenticeship program; 2) they conduct pre-hire drug screens; 3) they have no recent willful or major OSHA violations, wage theft or civil rights violations, don’t appear on BOLI’s debarred contractor list, and are in compliance with all Construction Contractor’s Board and Workers’ Compensation requirements; and 4) they provide a full family healthcare option for all craft employees consistent with area standards (except for women and minority firms doing less than $1 million of work).
  • Affordable housing At least 10% of any housing units constructed will be affordable to households making below 60% of the median income. That’s in addition to the one city block that Portland Housing Bureau will develop exclusively as affordable housing, for a total of 720 units of affordable housing.
  • Green building Continuum will use 100% renewable energy for construction, and for commercial and mixed-use buildings over 50,000 square feet and residential buildings with 30 units or more, buildings will meet LEED Gold standards.

The CBA will also help janitorial and security workers once the buildings are complete. Building owners or tenants who pay for janitorial and security services will set aside 0.4% of the contract cost to fund a non-profit that will help enforce employment laws and offer workers classes on citizenship, green cleaning methods, English as a second language, computers, and preventing workplace harassment and discrimination.

A separate “real estate development labor agreement” between Continuum and Service Employees International Union (SEIU) commits to use only janitorial and security contractors on SEIU’s “responsible contractor” list for office space and retail space of over 20,000 square feet.

City Council will hold a hearing on the agreement Sept. 16 at 2 p.m. Both the hearing and the Sept. 23 vote will take place electronically with council members and the public taking part remotely.

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