Trades workers ratify contract at Home Forward


Union maintenance workers at Home Forward ratified a three-year contract on Feb. 20 that raises starting pay $9 an hour on average and adds new safety provisions. 

Home Forward, formerly known as Housing Authority of Portland, is the federally-funded public corporation that administers public housing programs, including the federal housing voucher program that helps low-income families afford rentals and manages more than 2,500 housing units in Multnomah County. The 56 plumbers, electricians, painters, and maintenance workers who take care of those units are represented by the Building Trades Council (BTC), a coalition of trade unions that includes IBEW Local 48, Plumbers Local 290, Laborers Local 737, Teamsters Local 305, Painters Local 10, and Operating Engineers Local 701. Ahead of contract negotiations, Home Forward hired a consulting company to review its operations and learned that some maintenance workers were paid so poorly that they qualified  for Home Forward’s low-income housing programs, said BTC President Mark Hinkle, a business representative for IBEW Local 48. 

“So they came up with a plan that an entry position should be able to rent a one bedroom (apartment) in Portland,” he said. “This was the first time I’ve ever dealt with an employer who made a conscious decision to make sure any employee working for them could afford their own place.” 

The contract increases starting pay for maintenance generalists I, the lowest paid position in the unit, to $30.96 per hour, up from $22.18 an hour. Starting wages for other positions also increased:

Workers who made more than the starting wage for their position also received raises, but the rates varied depending on their hire date and years of experience. All those raises are retroactive to Jan. 1, 2024. Workers will also get an across-the-board $1.50 an hour raise on Jan. 1, 2025, and a $1 an hour raise on Jan. 1, 2026. 

The contract also requires Home Forward to notify workers about potentially unsafe conditions before they’re sent to a job.

“Late last summer, a gentleman lit a couch on fire and threw it off the deck near St. Johns. That was at a Home Forward property,” Hinkle said. “Workers could literally drive into a situation like that, so one of the things we heard from members loud and clear was safety.” 

The safety clause also gives workers the right to walk away from a job if they don’t feel safe, and it provides paid “clean up” time so they can shower and change if they’re exposed to hazards like raw sewage, asbestos, or bed bugs.

The contract expires Dec. 31, 2026. 


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