At the corner of southwest 11th and Clay, a new, fancy, high-rise condominium building called Benson Tower is being constructed by 2 Canadian companies, general contractor ITC and subcontractor Neway Forming. Three months into construction the project is behind schedule, and will surely be even more so after today's walkout by carpenters and other workers. |
Neway Forming, of British Columbia, has been known as an anti-union construction company and has brought down workers from Canada because it can pay them less than Oregonians, though it claims that they need to do this because there are not enough skilled workers in Portland. The company has been particularly hard on Mexican carpenters who are paid considerably less than other non-union carpenters who happen to be white (about $12 an hour compared to $18 to $20). Last week, carpenters on the site were talking about unionizing, and by Friday one of them had been fired. In response the carpenter's union filed an Unfair Labor Practices suit, and workers this morning walked out. Strikers included not only carpenters but union steelworkers, crane operators, and others. Also present at the strike in solidarity were IWW members, the SEIU, Jobs with Justice, CBLOC (Cross-Border Labor Organizing Committee), and others from the community.
Management scared 7 workers into going to work this morning, telling them they'll be fired if they join the strike, and that after the union takes out dues they end up making less money than they are now (which is false). But without the rest of the (approximately 15-man) crew, not a lot of work will get done today, especially with the absence of the crane operator, who refused to cross the picket line. Workers report that there are also unsafe working conditions at the site, including a crane that is old and improperly maintained.
The strike will continue tommorrow and "as long as it takes," in the words of one organizer. The striking workers need as much support as possible and are asking members of the community to join them Friday. Support Carpenters Organizing!
Friday, Sept. 16th
SW 11th and Clay
6:30 am (Perfect before going to work!)
Come support these carpenters who are taking a unique step in organizing and who are getting support from other building trades.