The Labor-Community Movement for police accountability Keeps Growing!

The public mandate to rethink policing has never been more clear. City of Portland and Portland Police Association are currently bargaining a new police contract, a critical opportunity to advance racial justice and genuine community safety. JwJ has been working with Unite Oregon and a Network of organizations to amass broad support for the people’s demands for police accountability!

Add Your Name! Tell City leadership to represent the voice of the community in bargaining!

Click Here for Unite Oregon’s letter endorsed by over 75+ faith, labor, neighborhood, and community organizations. Email sarah@jwjpdx.org if your organization can add your name in support!

Over 75 Groups in Support of Change As Police Bargaining Milestone Looms

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                    June 3, 2021

Unite Oregon     Portland Jobs with Justice    Portland Copwatch

AS POLICE BARGAINING MILESTONE LOOMS, COMMUNITY SUPPORT FOR CHANGE GROWS
Over 75 Groups Now Signed Onto Letter Demanding Accountability and Open
Meetings

On May 26, the Portland Police Association and the City of Portland held
another behind-closed-doors bargaining session around the PPA’s
collective bargaining agreement for 2021. This was overall the 10th
session since negotiations began in January, and the fifth held out of
the public eye under ground rules adopted by both parties. At the public
session on May 5, the City indicated its intention to incorporate a
requirement into the contract that all sessions be held in public, in
part due to ongoing community support for transparency. The demand for
open bargaining sessions was a key point in a letter sent to the City in
December outlining various key provisions to address around oversight,
accountability, deadly force and bias-based policing.

As the required minimum 150 day bargaining period will be fulfilled in
early June, momentum continues to build in the public for change. In
March, the number of community organizations supporting the letter had
grown from about 30 to over 50, and as of mid-May, there are now over 75
signators. A broad campaign including faith, labor, civil rights, and
neighborhood groups has come together in support of these demands. The
letter can be found at
https://www.uniteoregon.org/policing**

More information, including a summary news release about the May 26
session, can be found at the City’s website on police issues:
https://www.rethinkportland.com/ppa-contract

Recent organizations which have signed the letter include:

Disability Rights Oregon
Oregon Nurses Association Union of United Staff
AFSCME Local 402 (Oregon Health and Sciences University Graduate
Researchers United)
Portland Association of Teachers
Concordia Neighborhood Association
Vernon Neighborhood Association

A version of the letter with links to footnotes and an indicator of the
33 original groups can be found at
https://www.portlandcopwatch.org/ppa_contract_letter2020.html .

Another public session was held on June 2, at which the City indicated
there will be a private session on June 16 and a public session on June
30, several weeks after the 150 day deadline.

For more information contact

 Callie Riley, Communications and Policy Analyst at Unite Oregon,
   callie@uniteoregon.org
 Dan Handelman of Portland Copwatch, copwatch@portlandcopwatch.org
    / 503-236-3065
 or
 Sarah Kowaleski of Portland Jobs with Justice, sarah@jwjpdx.org

JWJ TAKES ACTION WITH WORKERS AT AMAZON-OWNED WHOLE FOODS

Currently, Oregon is experiencing the highest rate of COVID-19 case increases in the nation. As the majority of counties in Oregon enter “High” or “Extreme” Risk for COVID-19, it is more important than ever that frontline workers have safe workplaces. Worker health is public health!

Members of JwJ representing faith and labor witnesses joined workers today, Monday April 26th, in a delegation to the Tanasbourne Whole Foods Store Manager, Sandra, to express their need for greater safety measures. Workers are calling for trained personnel to work the door to enforce the mask mandate, to enforce customer limits. Workers also expressed concern that carts are no longer being disinfected, which is dangerous for customers who wrongly believe that they are still being disinfected.

All pandemic long, frontline grocery workers have provided our vital needs without the decency of appropriate compensation or protection by negligent corporations. This is especially the case for workers of Amazon and Amazon-owned Whole Foods. This is wrong, and the JwJ Coalition and The Reverend Connie Yost bore witness to workers concerns for a safe workplace.

The workers presented the following letter articulating their concerns to management:

To Store Leadership at Whole Foods Market Tanasbourne,

We feel that we have been left out of important decision-making. As Oregon faces the rise of COVID-19 cases, we feel this is not the time to remove the shift at the front door without an alternative. We fear that we (especially those that have not been fully vaccinated) may catch the deadly disease as the finish line is coming into view. Many more customers without masks have been entering the store as Washington County sees risk rising. In addition, Whole Body continues to lose hundreds if not thousands of dollars in product due to theft. We respectfully ask that that you hire a security guard to check for proper face coverings and act as a reinforcement for loss prevention until every Team Member is fully vaccinated or Oregon sees a six week continuous drop in cases. We know that Whole Foods cares about Team Member happiness and growth, and to that end, we should be consulted and informed before decisions like these are made in the future.

Portland Jwj stands with providence Nurses

Letter to Providence:

January 29, 2021

Dear Jennifer Burrows, Oregon Regional Chief Nursing Officer, Providence Health & Services in Oregon:

We are members of the Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board.  We represent a broad spectrum of political, faith, academic, legal, and community leaders, all of whom are committed to fighting for community labor standards that respect the dignity of all workers. 

In this regard, we have grown ever more concerned about the unwillingness of Providence Health & Services to respect the safety of its own employees, in this case its nurses. This is especially alarming given the role that nurses play as frontline workers during this pandemic. 

We have read articles in local newspapers, heard stories on local media, and spoken directly to Providence nurses working throughout the state and staff of the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA), and it is clear to us that Providence is failing to provide its nurses with safe working conditions, putting both them and those they serve at great risk.  Moreover, unlike other health providers like Kaiser and OHSU, Providence remains a regional outlier in its unwillingness to meet and actively work with nurses from the Oregon Nurses Association to implement their COVID-19 Bill of Rights.

Providence Health & Services has failed to provide nurses with needed personal protective devices.  In the case of masks, for example, many nurses have been forced to wear ones inappropriately sized or heavily worn from repeated use.  It has also failed to ensure timely testing of nurses to determine whether they have been infected, through their work with patients and other staff, with the coronavirus.  It has failed to adequately compensate nurses who must take time away from work because of possible or actual infection. It has ignored the enormous emotional and physical costs suffered by nurses from overwork, inadequate safety standards, and ever changing policy pronouncements.  And, by refusing to sign an agreement which guarantees these critical protections, Providence is robbing nurses of the certainty and stability which comes with an enforceable union contract. 

Providence nurses, in demanding that Providence work with them to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment, safe staffing practices, guaranteed access to rapid point-of-care testing and consistent notification of exposures or possible exposures, appropriate time off and workers compensation for Covid-19 exposure, and respect for nurse input and accountability, are only asking Providence Health & Services to take the pandemic seriously and act appropriately.   

The coronavirus case load continues to rise throughout the state.  We call on Providence administrators to sit down now with representatives from ONA and sign an agreement to implement nurses’ COVID-19 Bill of Rights.  Nurses and their patients desperately need these protections.  If an agreement is not signed within one week, which should be more than enough time to make the right choice, we are committed to organizing a major community forum at which nurses and patients can tell their stories, and share their concerns and frustrations with Providence.  And we will do our best to ensure that local and state media, political and business leaders, and concerned Oregonians are appropriately educated about Providence’s intransigence during this time of pandemic crisis.  

Sincerely, 

Bill Bigelow, Curriculum Editor, Rethinking Schools

Johanna Brenner, Professor of Sociology/ WGSS Emerita, Portland State University

Senator Michael Dembrow, Oregon Senate District 23

Barbara Dudley, Oregon Working Families Party, Senior Policy Advisor

Veronica Dujon, Professor of Sociology, Portland State University

Ranfis Giannettino Villatoro, Community Organizer, Blue Green Alliance

Avel Louise Gordly, Former Oregon State Senator

Martin Hart-Landsberg, Professor Emeritus of Economics, Lewis and Clark College

Catherine Highet, Highet Law, LLC

Commissioner Susheela Jayapal, Multnomah County 

Maura Kelly, Portland State University

Mary C. King, Professor of Economics Emerita, Portland State University

Rev. Mark Knutson, Augustana Lutheran Church 

Msgr. Chuck Lienert, Priest of the Archdiocese of Portland

Nikki Mandell, Professor of History Emerita, University of Wisconsin- Whitewater

Commissioner Sharon Meieran, MD, JD, Multnomah County 

Rev. Jack Mosbrucker, Archdiocese of Portland, Retired 

Huy Ong, Executive Director of OPAL Environmental Justice Oregon

Dr. José Padín, Portland State University

Verna Porter, retired RN, Alliance for Retired Americans

The Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod, Ainsworth United Church of Christ

Former Senate Majority Leader Diane Rosenbaum

The Reverend Dr. Patricia Ross, United Church of Christ, Retired 

The Reverend Eugene Ross, United Church of Christ, Retired

Rev. John Schwiebert, Metanoia Peace Community, United Methodist Church

Rev. Lynne Smouse López, Ainsworth United Church of Christ

Commissioner Jessica Vega Pederson, Multnomah County

Dr. David L. Wheeler, American Baptist theologian, Eastern University

Chris Wold, Professor of Law, Lewis & Clark Law School

Rev. Connie Yost, President, Farm Worker Ministry Northwest

Fr. Dave Zeger, St. Andrew Catholic Church

CC:

Lisa Vance, Chief Executive Officer, Providence Health & Services Oregon

Dan Mueller,  Senior Labor & Employment Counsel, Providence Health & Services Oregon

Lynda Pond, President, Oregon Nurses Association

Sarah Laslett, Executive Director, Oregon Nurses Association 

Tom Doyle, General Counsel, Oregon Nurses Association

Press Release:

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE  February 1. 2021

Contact: Dr. Veronica Dujon

Workers’ Rights Board Chair

(503) 280-1412

(DujonV@pdx.edu)

PORTLAND-AREA WORKERS’ RIGHTS BOARD CALLS ON PROVIDENCE HEALTH & SERVICES IN OREGON TO NEGOTIATE COVID PROTECTIONS FOR NURSES

Providence remains a regional outlier in its unwillingness to meet and actively work with nurses from the Oregon Nurses Association to implement their COVID-19 Bill of Rights.

PORTLAND, OREGON. February 1, 2021- The Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board represents a broad spectrum of political, faith, academic, legal, and community leaders, all of whom are committed to fighting for community labor standards that respect the dignity of all workers. After reading a stream of media stories and hearing alarming testimony from nurses it is clear to us that Providence is failing to provide its nurses with safe working conditions, putting both them and those they serve at great risk. 

The Workers’ Rights Board has sent a letter to Chief Nursing Officer of Providence Health and Systems, Jennifer Burrows, calling on Providence administrators to immediately sit down with representatives from the Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) and sign an agreement to implement nurses’ COVID-19 Bill of Rights. The Oregon Nurses Association (ONA) represents more than 4,000 nurses working at Providence’s Oregon health care facilities and more than 15,000 Oregon nurses and health care workers.

Providence nurses, in demanding that Providence work with them to ensure the availability of personal protective equipment, safe staffing practices, guaranteed access to rapid point-of-care testing and consistent notification of exposures or possible exposures, appropriate time off and workers compensation for Covid-19 exposure, and respect for nurse input and accountability, are only asking Providence Health & Services to take the pandemic seriously and act appropriately. As it is, Providence is a regional outlier, refusing to do what other health providers like Kaiser and OHSU have already done. 

Veronica Dujon, a Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Workers’ Rights Board said:  “As Workers’ Rights Board members we’re hoping Providence will honor its own mission and values of compassion, justice and integrity and care for their frontline caregivers who risk their lives on our behalf. An agreement is in the best interest of  our wider community, not only for Providence nurses.”

“We are incredibly grateful our community stands with Oregon’s nurses. Hearing leaders from all walks of life speak up for strong COVID-19 safety standards says volumes about our community’s priorities,” said Oregon Nurses Association President Lynda Pond, RNC. “Without COVID-19 safety standards, nurses are walking a tightrope without a net. Providence needs to support nurses to prove it cares about caregivers and our community. It’s time for Providence to pick up a pen and sign a COVID-19 safety agreement to protect Oregon’s nurses, patients and our communities.”

If Providence does not sign an agreement with ONA within one week, the Workers’ Rights Board is committed to organizing a major community forum at which nurses and patients can publicly tell their stories, and share their concerns and frustrations.  We will do our best to ensure that local and state media, political and business leaders, and concerned Oregonians are appropriately educated about Providence’s intransigence during this time of pandemic crisis.  

###

Why We Support House Bill 2205

Just Enforcement Will Empower Workers to Enforce Their Rights

by Sarah Kowaleski, JwJ Coalition Organizer

 All workers should be able to entrust that their rights will be protected and that the state will enforce laws meant to protect them. Throughout the pandemic, state agencies received record numbers of reports of workplace abuse and health and safety violations. During 2020, OR OSHA received complaints from 23 of the 35 largest workplace COVID outbreaks but were only able to investigate two. OR OSHA received ten times as many complaints as they do in a normal year. 

Essential workers have made life-saving sacrifices and keep us nourished, cared for, and safe. Yet mortality rates for jobs in the food and agriculture industries, disproportionately immigrant workers, have jumped nearly 40% during the pandemic. When frontline and essential workers work in industries which have seen the most widespread workplace outbreaks of COVID-19, robust safety enforcement is essential to public health for our entire community.

Essential and immigrant workers also disproportionately labor for low wages and face wage theft. That is, they are cheated out of their pay by bad bosses. Despite hundreds of claims of stolen wages filed every year, employers only pay penalties in 1% of claims determined to be valid. As a result, lawbreaking employers have little incentive to do the right thing. When labor laws are poorly enforced, workers, especially the most marginalized, lose confidence that the system will protect them. This tailspin drives workers into dire circumstances and disadvantages honest businesses who play by the rules.  It is precisely the communities with the least means, and who face the most structural and language barriers to collective organization whose rights have been heartlessly disregarded.

Because it’s clear that the state lacks the capacity to enforce existing labor law, the legislature should enact the Just Enforcement Act (House Bill 2205). This legislation allows workers and organizations to enforce labor laws when the state cannot do so. Providing an avenue for workers to partner with trusted community organizations to file suits on the state’s behalf would empower workers to speak out without fear of retaliation or losing their jobs. Workers recover 30-40% of the civil penalties collected from bosses who break the rules, and the state agency would reinvest the remainder to expand investigative staff and conduct community outreach. Workers and advocates will be empowered, more violations will be caught, and a culture of compliance will create better working conditions for all. 

Jobs with Justice is dedicated to protecting the rights of working people and this landmark legislation will make workplaces more safe and just. Our community must demand that legislators support House Bill 2205, Just Enforcement Act, in defense of all workers’ rights. 

PROP 22: WHAT’S AT STAKE FOR LABOR?

By Sarah Kowaleski

A Narrow Proposition

This November in California, multi-billionaire Gig corporations such as Uber, Lyft, Postmates, DoorDash and Instacart spent more than $200 million to back a deceptive California state proposition known as Prop 22. This was a corporate backlash to a new law in California, known as AB5, that rightly classified gig workers as employees. Despite all of their millions and resorting to deceptive tactics, gig corporations won, narrowly. Only 58% of California voters backed Prop 22, the gig-worker proposition. 

Prop 22 has both enabled gig corporations to continue misclassifying their workers as “contractors” and has given the industry a playbook they hope to replicate in the face of rising Labor movements worldwide.

What’s in it for Gig Employers?

Proposition 22 was based around the fear that their workers, given the proper wages and protections of employees would annihilate the gig business model based on hyper exploitation. Uber and the like see their ‘success’ with Prop 22 in California as a way to thwart regulations that apply to every other employer. In fact, just after the win, Uber CEO Dara Khosrowshahi told analysts, “We feel strongly that this is the right approach, and it’s a priority for us to work with governments across the U.S. and the world to make this a reality.”  32 other states already use the same legal test to determine worker classification as California’s, so Gig corporations are keen to export this approach to other states. They know that “not real employee” status is inferior to “employee” status, so they wish to enshrine this everywhere, permanently.

What’s at stake for Labor and communities?

Measures like Prop 22 allow wealthy corporations to deny their drivers rights and protections like paid sick leave, workers compensation, and unemployment benefits. What’s at stake include good union jobs that pay fair wages, and small businesses, as gig corporations drive down standards in order to drive up their competitive advantage. Gig corporations want to maximize their profit and expand their low-pay, no-protection business model to virtually every industry, leading to unprecedented job loss and a race to the bottom. 

Now, gig corporations are pouring resources into state legislation and forming industry lobby groups such as the App-Based Work Alliance, to accomplish their goal of rolling back workers’ rights and to pre-emptively stifle worker organizing and consumer advocacy for stronger protections. This makes us all less safe by eliminating safety protections for riders and drivers and any liability these wealthy corporations have to consumers.

Stay tuned for ways you can support Gig workers organizing, pushing back on greedy corporate plans to erode the rights of employees. We must not take these rights for granted! 

We Shall Overcome: A message from leaders of Portland Jobs With Justice

By Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod and Will Layng
(This article was originally published on 7/28/20 on the national JwJ website)

Every day and night over the last two months, Portland, Oregon– our city and home–has seen mass protests against police brutality in the wake of the police killings of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor. The protests involve Portlanders from all over the city, taking place at schools, courthouses, parks, and in the streets. It’s an uprising that threatens to sweep out the racist policing that has brutalized our community for decades.

The eyes of the nation and the world turned to our city and the uprising on July 16 when video emerged of camouflaged U.S. Marshals, attached to the Department of Homeland Security, abducting protesters and attacking demonstrators outside the federal courthouse in downtown Portland.

On Monday, July 20, thousands of demonstrators gathered downtown to protest federal and local police attacks on non-violent protesters, including blocs of moms and dads who joined the uprising to support Don’t Shoot PDX, a Portland Jobs With Justice- allied civil rights group who has helped lead the uprising in the streets. Thousands lifted flashlights into the air and sang the historic movement song “We Shall Overcome” in an uplifting moment of solidarity.  Soon after they were tear gassed by a mix of federal and local police. Undeterred, they returned the next night and each night since.

Deep In My Heart

Oregon became a state in 1859 and joined the Civil War on behalf of the Union. Yet its founding had less to do with ending slavery and freedom for Black people, and more to do with white people desiring a homeland separate from Black people. While moving quickly to decimate and relocate indigenous tribes, the state’s original constitution also explicitly banned Black people from residing in Oregon.

The generations of police violence against Black people in our community are part of our inheritance from Oregon’s racist origins. Over the last two decades, we have seen a growing movement to organize against and challenge racist police violence and the killing of Black community members such as Kendra James, James Jahar Perez, Keaton Otis, and Aaron Campbell. The nationwide attention on police brutality has empowered local organizing efforts.

We’ll Walk Hand In Hand

Over the years, Portland JWJ has worked to bring a workers’ right perspective to police oversight and accountability efforts in our community. The Portland Police Association, the “union” for police officers, has long been an advocate for violent police tactics and a defender of racist police. We’ve seen our local labor movement take real steps to be part of efforts at reforming our criminal justice system, including efforts to limit the power of police associations.

For us, as we work to raise awareness about union contract campaigns and organizing campaigns, the same communities we mobilize will say things like “why should we support that union when the police union attacks us and no one from labor says anything?”  For us to build true solidarity, we know that we have to be willing to challenge injustice at all the intersections where it emerges to have a stronger workers’ rights movement.

We Are Not Afraid

As the federal menace in Oregon became more visible, many speculated that it was primarily a political stunt by President Trump to try and show “law and order” cred in the face of lagging poll numbers. Other reporting shows that the President wants to build a federal police force with the ability to carry out unchecked and uninvited domestic extrajudicial activities.

IMG_5847Our experience in Portland shows that we in the labor movement cannot and will not allow that to happen. Imagine if the next time we are striking and picketing an employer for a fair contract, and Homeland Security arrives to whisk away our leaders? The rise of fascism in the United States must remind us that democracy, whether in the workplace or our politics, is a threat to fascist regimes, and regimes will use forces as we see in Portland today to smash our democracies.

That’s why we are so proud of our community for showing up night after night. We’re bringing our leafblowers, we’re bringing helmets and umbrellas and food. We’re feeding each other, we’re gathering in blocs by trades, our faith communities are showing up, we’re wearing masks, and keeping each other safe. The police forces are armed with military weaponry and apparently feel bound by no laws. We are a city of #EverydayAntifascists; we affirm the words of Martin Luther King, Jr., “we shall overcome because the arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice,” and the existential reality that #BlackLivesMatter.

Ways you can take action:

Rev. Cecil Charles Prescod is the chair of the Faith Labor Committee of Portland Jobs With Justice

Will Layng is the Executive Director of Portland Jobs With Justice