On July 27, 2017 the Portland Jobs with Justice Worker’s Rights Board convened a hearing on the exploitation of immigrant carpenters in the Portland area construction industry.
After almost two hours of testimony from the workers and from experts on both wage theft and community benefit agreements as a successful tool in fighting such exploitation, the Worker’s Rights Board panel came back with four recommendations.
Worker’s Rights Board Recommendations on the Exploitation of Immigrant Carpenters in Portland Area Construction Industry
- Require all construction projects in the City of Portland and in Multnomah County that rely to any degree on public monies, whether federal, state or local, to operate with a Community Benefits Agreement based on best practices in general and modeled after the successful pilot projects in Portland, in particular the Portland Water Bureau projects at the Kelly Butte Reservoir and the Interstate Maintenance Facility.
These Community Benefits Agreements should ensure that:
a. Women, people of color, low-income people and members of other
under-represented groups are well represented among employees and contractors.
b. Local, community organizations and unions with expertise at recruiting, training and representing women, people of color, low-income people and members of other under-represented groups are involved at every stage, to assist with developing the Community Benefits Agreement, supporting efforts to meet hiring and contracting goals, and ensure compliance with stated goals.
c. Decent labor standards are met by all contractors and sub-contractors, including equal pay for equal work, appropriate training and professional development, safety practices, and maintaining workplaces free from discrimination, harassment, retaliation against whistle-blowers, and abuses such as wage theft and misclassification of employees.
d. All contractors participate in or operate a state approved apprenticeship program, shown to effectively provide appropriate classroom and practical training
i. To a group of apprentices with strong representation of women, people of color, low-income individuals and other groups under-represented in construction work in the Portland area;
ii. Which creates demonstrable improvements in skill development of a high proportion of participants, including members of all groups mentioned above;
iii. Which provides evidence that a high proportion of apprentices graduate from the training program in a timely manner.
e. Any contractors that do not meet minimum goals for the objectives outlined above be penalized with fines proportionate to the shortfall. In the case of repeated or particularly egregious shortcomings, contractors should be barred from
construction work reliant on public funds for a number of years.
- An Oversight Committee, comprised of representatives from the City of Portland,
Multnomah County, Prosper Portland and local community organizations, be created to monitor and enforce the Community Benefits Agreement, reporting to the Mayor of Portland and the Chair of the Multnomah County Board of Commissioners. The Oversight Committee should have a Labor Compliance Subcommittee that is solely focused on ensuring appropriate project monitoring, compliance and enforcement activities, which regularly reports to the Oversight Committee.
- The Labor Compliance Subcommittee should contract with appropriate community organizations or directly hire Labor Compliance Inspectors to regularly visit worksites, speaking individually with employees.
a. The Labor Compliance subcommittee should have access to and review monthly certified payroll, have power to issue penalties and liquidated damages on non-compliant contractors and sub-contractors, and have the power to issue back wages to injured parties.
b. Labor Compliance Inspectors should report their findings directly to both the
Oversight Committee and the Labor Compliance Subcommittee on a regular basis.
c. Labor Compliance inspectors should be community leaders or members trained by labor representatives, including unions and other community organizations involved in drafting the Community Benefits Agreement and represented on the Oversight Committee and on the Labor Compliance Subcommittee.
d. The Oversight Committee should regularly report its findings to the City of Portland and Multnomah County, and expect regular, prompt accounts of City or County actions to fine non-compliant contractors or bar them from publicly funded projects for a period of time.
- At least 1% of the total value of the construction contracts should be placed in an
account, in the amounts of
a. one-fourth for compliance activities, which could include, but not be limited to: paying costs of a non-profit organization charged with pursuing remedies from
employers who engage in wage theft or other breaches of labor standards
enumerated in the Community Benefits Agreement; and making whole employees
who experience wage theft or other breaches of labor standards, if that non-profit is unable to collect sums found to be owed from construction employers.
b. one-fourth for increasing the overall capacity of contracting participation
through community outreach partnerships and small business technical assistance.
c. one-half for increasing the overall capacity of a diverse workforce through
community outreach partnerships, supportive services and industry specific skills