Building Sanctuary In Our Movement

Ballots have arrived at the homes of voters across Oregon, and while there are many important ballot measures and candidate races to consider, I wanted to take a moment today to speak specifically and personally to a measure that I know has concerned a great number of people in our coalition.  

My name is Robert Camarillo, I’m the Executive Secretary of the Oregon Building Trades Council, and I also serve as the Immigrant Rights Chair at Portland Jobs with Justice.  Our coalition has endorsed NO on Measure 105, which, if passed, would stand to repeal Oregon’s 30 year old sanctuary state law. Not only is defeating Measure 105 important as a means to protect our current law, but moreover, I believe that a NO vote is important in speaking to what we want to build and become.  

The Labor movement has at our core the value that an injury to one is an injury to all. From the shop floors, construction sites, kitchens and offices, so many of us can call to mind moments in our own working lives where solidarity among workers created moments of sanctuary from unfair treatment.

The proponents of Measure 105 would want to see our vision of solidarity destroyed, to call to the worst of our fears and inclinations. I say no, and that solidarity is built upon defending all workers.

I say that this fight is one we can win, and we will do so by calling to the better angels of our nature. Solidarity will protect and build sanctuary, moving closer towards the just society we envision.  I am proud to be the son of immigrants, I am proud to be organizing in the Labor movement, and I ask that you join me and Portland Jobs with Justice in voting NO on 105.

In solidarity and with hope for the future,

Robert Camarillo

This is What Solidarity Looks Like

IMG_2326Following on the heels of a wave of successful and massive statewide teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, and Arizona, teacher’s across southwest Washington went on strike after districts tried to keep money in the bank that had been handed down by the state legislature specifically to pay for raises and more teachers.

Despite that fact that teachers pay for supplies out of their own pockets, have to work second and third jobs to pay their bills, and are generally overworked, the bad bosses at the district offices thought padding their rainy day funds was more important than living wages for teachers.

At Portland Jobs with Justice we knew it was going to be a tough fight and indeed districts held out, some even filed injunctions to try to force teachers back to work. But we also knew that with students, parents, and the rest of the community firmly behind teachers who were ready to fight, that they would win.

JwJStrikeCaravanGroupWhen we learned that teachers across the river were striking we immediately began organizing community support, and on day two of the strike dozens of Portlanders joined the Solidarity Squad Flying Caravan. Over the river and #RedforEd, the caravan stopped at three different schools (an elementary school, a middle school, and a high school) in the Evergreen School District to provide strike support and walk the picket line with teachers.

For the next two weeks, community members continued to show up and walk the picket line in solidarity with striking teachers. Because solidarity is how we build movements that can win.

IMG_2196The Washington teacher strikes shutdown dozens of schools in 9 districts. Over 6,000 teachers went on strike and the start of the school year was delayed by two weeks for over 100,000 students. We were right, it was a tough fight. But the teachers stayed strong, they fought hard, and they showed us what it means to organize to win.

When courts ruled in favor of injunctions and ordered teachers in Longview and Battleground back to work, the teachers voted overwhelmingly to violate the injunction, risk arrest, and remain on strike. It is no surprise that within a day or two of that vote, districts began to cave.

Because when we strike, we win.

Local Labor Leaders Show Support for Portland Mayor’s Sanctuary City Actions

On the morning of August 2, 2018 a letter written by Portland Jobs with Justice, and signed by a dozen local labor leaders was delivered to the office of Portland Mayor Ted Wheeler. The letter is in support of Mayor Wheeler’s actions keeping Portland’s law enforcement resources from being used to assist ICE in policing first amendment protests that took place last month at the Portland ICE office against the federal administration’s zero tolerance immigration policy and the detention of immigrant children. The letter from labor leaders was prompted by Mayor Wheeler’s receipt of a letter from ICE that was critical of the mayor’s decision and actions.

1500 NE Irving St. Suite 585 Portland, OR 97232
503.236.5573  |

August 2, 2018

Dear Mayor Wheeler,

We are leaders of local labor unions and labor organizations representing thousands of Portland area workers. We write in full support of your actions keeping Portland’s law enforcement resources from being used to assist the federal government’s Department of Immigration and Customs Enforcement.  We are proud to live in a state and community that uphold sanctuary policies that keep federal government enforcement of immigration policy separate from local law enforcement.

We have been dismayed to see the rhetoric and actions from federal officials threatening local officials and governments that challenge misguided immigration policies.  We believe that our community is safer and more secure when local law enforcement is not pulled in to actions supporting federal immigration policies that tear apart working families in our community.   

We recognize that maintaining Oregon and Portland’s sanctuary policies can lead to tough decisions for elected leaders and we are aware of the threatening letter your office received recently from a lawyer for a union representing ICE employees.  We want you to know that you have our support in your efforts to keep our community resources, including police resources, from engaging in federal enforcement of immigration policy.


Will Layng, Executive Director, Portland Jobs With Justice
Matt Hilton, President, AFSCME Local 328
Rob Martineau, President, AFSCME Local 189
Sandra Amolo, Interim Executive Director, Voz Workers’ Rights Education Project
Suzanne Cohen, President, Portland Association of Teachers
Meg Niemi, President, SEIU Local 49
John Larson, President, Oregon Education Association
Jim Fotter, Executive Director, Oregon Education Association
Elizabeth Goetzinger, President, AFSCME Local 3580
Paul Cone, President, Professional and Technical Employees Local 17, Portland Chapter
Reyna Lopez, Executive Director, PCUN Oregon’s Farmworker Union
Steve Demarest, President, SEIU Local 503

Does Burgerville Care About its Employees, or its Profit Margin?

The recently started negotiations by the Burgerville Workers Union (BVWU) for two stores will be the true test of whether Burgerville’s impressive marketing and their philanthropic donations are based on deeply held beliefs, or rather the desire for profit and tax avoidance.  

My family and thousands of other JwJ supporters are committed to maintaining the worker-called boycott of Burgerville until they reach a fair contract with their workers. BVWU (organized by the Industrial Workers of the World) was endorsed overwhelmingly by the workers at the Southeast 92nd & Powell and the Gladstone locations, in spite of a relentless union-busting campaign waged by Management.

My daughter and I were at a peaceful BVWU picket line a year ago during the Rose Parade. We saw the company’s paid union-busters fill buckets with horse manure… and proceed to dump them in the middle of the picket line. In front of the restaurant! At lunch time. I know Burgerville workers who have been unfairly fired for trivial offenses, like adding nuts to some ice cream …when nuts are a topping provided for free to customers.

We all appreciate it when corporations contribute to important programs in the community. However,let’s be clear that businesses get substantial tax deductions for those philanthropic efforts.  I absolutely support community swimming pools and public schools, but I hope for the day we can fully fund those with tax dollars rather than relying on corporate whims.  

Some people, including Elizabeth Hovde in a recent anti-union trash piece published in The Oregonian, demean our entire community by saying that young workers are simply looking to retire. In fact, the young workers I know demand authenticity and have a clear sense of when they are being misled. They want work that doesn’t market itself great community service when it’s really just making lots of money for the owners.

Young workers support sustainable business practices that don’t do further harm to the future of our planet. But they also wonder about how they can sustain themselves when we know fast food jobs pay so little and when our society sends them, under the burden of massive student debt, into a job market full of low-wage and “gig” employment.  BVWU members, who take the orders and cook the food, are the ones holding Burgerville accountable to their brand image.  Burgerville workers see the company’s marketing and its philanthropic donations…  and are left to wonder why they have to struggle to make ends meet?   

Could that be a reason the elections have gone so well for the workers?  Until these workers have a fair contract, I’m proud to join the Burgerville boycott.

If you support the workers at Burgerville too, then please join us for a solidarity social with BVWU on the evening of Tuesday August 14th. Click Here for more info about that event.

-Will Layng, Executive Director, Portland Jobs With Justice

Hope for Labor in a Post-Janus World

Today the U.S. Supreme Court announced its long expected decision in the Janus vs. AFSCME case.  As predicted, the Court aligned with its Koch Industries’ sponsored lapdogs in the Republican Party to undermine public sector employees.  Public employees remain the strongest bastion of the organized U.S. Labor movement, accounting for 49% of all unionized workers in the U.S.

At Jobs With Justice, we see hope in times of great moral crisis, and many in and out of our labor movement will certainly see today’s decision as reason for dismay.

Here are 5 reasons why we are hopeful at this moment for worker organizations:

  1. People like us! Public support for unions is higher than its been in 15 years, the result of young workers entering our low wage economy under huge debt loads, the #MeToo movement, and many other factors.
  2. We’ve joined the rest of world! Union shops are already outlawed in most of the rest of the world.  Including countries we think of as having strong, free, labor unions.
  3. The Red State rebellion! The public school teacher strikes in West Virginia, Oklahoma, Kentucky, and Arizona have dramatically changed the stakes- in states that outlaw not just union shops but collective bargaining for public employees.
  4. We’re (getting) ready! The threat of the end of union shops has shifted union culture to focus more on organizing members and less on providing services.
  5. Organizing the Unorganized! Many sectors of the retail industry such as big box stores, restaurants, and fast food chains have long been considered “unorganizable” by traditional labor tactics like NLRB organizing.  But unions who are engaged in grassroots labor struggles and winning, such as the Burgerville Workers Union, are proving that when we fight and follow workers’ leadership, we win.

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*Side note: Several weeks ago on the Portland Jobs With Justice Facebook page we asked our followers where they were finding hope for organized labor in a post-Janus world, here’s what the community said!

Workers’ Rights Board hears disturbing testimony on TriMet’s LIFT paratransit service

At a recent hearing on May 17th of the Portland Area Workers’ Rights Board, hosted by Portland Jobs with Justice and Amalgamated Transit Union Local 757, over 100 community members heard testimony about TriMet’s LIFT paratransit service. The testimony highlighted a disturbing trend of labor and human rights violations that began when TriMet outsourced the service to First Transit, which is a subdivision of the multinational corporation First Group.

IMG_1118Testimony was heard from drivers and riders who have first hand experience with this service since it has been outsourced to First Transit, care workers whose jobs are impacted by the quality of the LIFT paratransit service, and public transit systems specialists who offered alternatives and potential solutions to some of the issues faced by drivers and riders of TriMet’s LIFT paratransit.

Unlike fixed-route service where riders walk or ride a bike to a bus stop and wait for the bus to show up and take them to another bus stop, Trimet’s LIFT service is comprised of public transit buses that serve primarily the elderly and people with disabilities through non-fixed route bus service. Riders call and make appointments for service. A bus comes directly to their home (or wherever they need to be picked up from), and the driver takes them directly to their place of work, medical appointment, or wherever it is they need to go.  Read More