portland independent media center  
images audio video
newswire article announcements portland metro

economic justice | labor | social services

Portland Social Workers Go On Strike For Children

Monday 6am at 3415 se Powell, SEIU local 503 members are striking to lower turn over, improve staffing ratios, and improve working conditions at the Parry Center.
Workers at the Parry Center are going on strike to turn back the tide of maltreatment and injustice at the Parry Center. Currently turnover for staff who work directly with the kids is around 50% at any one time. This is due largely to the poor pay, and the environment of expected and induced burnout by management, who use poor working conditions as a lever to oust good employees who try to improve things at the work place. Management frequently rides all the legal limits, especially staff to child ratios, so that when a problem does arise it is the children and staff who suffer from understaffing. They have refused to put in THE LEGAL STAFFING LIMITS in the contract, presumably because when they break the law with understaffing they could have to deal with a quicker form of justice by the union.

How low can the race to the bottom take us? How about $9.28 an hour for college graduates who care for vulnerable children - and no raise for another three years (after a 1 year wage freeze before)?

That's what workers at the Parry Center for Children in Portland are facing as they prepare to strike as early as Nov. 29 in an effort to end a freeze on their wages and to hold onto union rights in their current contract.

The Parry Center, managed by Trillium Family Services, is another example of a non-profit service agency willing to spend far more of its public funds on fighting its workers than on providing them pay increases. The raise in wages would cost something like 70k$, whereas the administration has already blown over 100k$ on union busting lawyer's fees. Parry Center managed to squeeze out a surplus of more than $800,000 from operations and fundraising in its last fiscal year, while paying its 110 front-line workers a total of $1.2 million in that year. But the agency appears determined to spend a big piece of that surplus fighting the union at the bargaining table and none of if it on meeting its workers halfway in their attempt to achieve something approaching a living wage.

Pay rates for the workers at the Parry Center who are required to have four-year degrees range from $8.86 per hour to $9.28 per hour with modest health insurance benefits. Those are not living wage rates, much less family wage rates. According to the recently updated "Job Gap Study," compiled by the Northwest Federation of Community Organizations, a single person in Oregon must earn $10.17 per hour to meet his or her basic needs - and $10.85 per hour in high-cost areas like Portland. For a person with a child, the amount needed is $17.60 per hour in high-cost areas.

The workers at the Parry Center are seeking a 5% raise, averaging 45 cents per hour, which would cost the agency approximately $75,000 per year. But the agency has refused to offer any wage increase over the next three years and is threatening to use permanent replacements if the workers, represented by SEIU Local 503, go on strike.

What can you do?

Call Trillium CEO Kim Scott at 503-205-2553 and ask him to back off on his stonewalling of the union and "Put Kids First" by providing reasonable pay rates for the workers who care for Oregon's most vulnerable children.

Strike is Possible

If there is no progress in bargaining, the workers will strike on Monday, Nov. 29 and hold a rally at 6:00 p.m. that day at the Parry Center, 3415 SE Powell Blvd., Portland.
Stand Strong! 27.Nov.2004 21:41

union social worker

I wish nothing but good luck to the striking workers at Parry Center. I will be there to support you on the picket line come Monday.

Good luck strikers! 28.Nov.2004 02:27


I worked for Janus Youth years back. I made $5 per hour, no benefits, and worked with some really hurt and difficult kids/adolescents. It was hard work and I came home exhausted - and yet I couldn't make my bills so my life was insecure too, and finally I had to leave for better paying work. This work needs to be valued more in this society - people who are good at it and enjoy it are very valuable to kids and the system.

I Wonder 28.Nov.2004 07:59

Den Mark, Vancouver

I wonder what Kim Scott's salary is. I bet he's well taken care of. The directors/board/trustees of Parry could save mucho dinero by abolishing Kim's position, & their own, & reforming the place as a worker collective. That they would certainly not consider doing that is proof that their mentality is boringly unimaginative & startlingly ignorant. I have yet to be part of an organization that absolutely had to have administrators. What do administrators do. They "administrate". What the hell is THAT! Of course, occasional administrators are good effective people, but the norm is that most admins stall & muddle & complicate & stall & waste & confuse & doubt & stall. And stall. Look at Goodwill Industries. The local ceo made close to a million bucks in a recent year. Somebody tell me why he was worth that! The Goodwill empire is built upon donated goods & the labor of differently-abled & struggling people. Something stinks about that. I'm sick of administrators & executives. They suck. And i'm sure that Parry's do, too.

Watch "Trillium's War on Workers" 28.Nov.2004 08:37

OPEU District Four Productions

Check out this QuickTime streaming video to learn more about the Parry Center struggle.

Click here for the video:  http://portland.indymedia.org/en/2004/11/304642.shtml

After the staff's needs are met 28.Nov.2004 16:29

Maybe the kids will get considered

Don't forget this is a place where children are held involuntarily and subjected to forced medication and treatment, physical restraints and denial of many rights children not so labelled are afforded. It might be better than the Oregon State Hospital but that's not a very high bar to reach.