Picketers rally for higher wages

    Workers stood outside the downtown Hilton Portland and Executive Tower Hotel Monday shouting phrases like “DWA! Unfair pay!" and holding signs in protest of the companies they work for.

    Similar demonstrations have taken place at buildings all around downtown Portland. The picketers, representatives from the Pacific Northwest Regional Council of Carpenters (PNRCC), said that two separate companies, TMT Development, and DWA Tradeshow and Exposition Services, pay their employees 40 percent less than the area standard wage.

    With continued shouting, the protestors stood outside the Hilton on Southwest Sixth Avenue all day. DWA’s employees are responsible for the setup and dismantling of tradeshows and were working at an event inside the Hilton that day.

    The area standard wage for carpenter craft employees is $26 per hour, according to the Oregon Bureau of Labor and Industries.

    According to Jason Sheckler, a representative of the carpenters’ council, DWA does not pay its employees the “area standard wage" or give them any medical or retirement benefits. Sheckler said that the carpenters’ council will picket any company in downtown Portland that does not give its employees what the council believes are appropriate wages and benefits.

    Nearby at the Fox Tower on Southwest Broadway, the carpenters’ council was also picketing. A large yellow banner reading “LOW WAGES = HOMELESSNESS" was hard to miss on the sidewalk west of Broadway.

    ”This is an exercise of our First Amendment right, freedom of speech. TMT Development, whose Tom Moyer owns three buildings down here, uses contractors in their buildings that pay below area standard wages for their carpenter craft employees," said Rudy Martinez, another representative of the carpenters’ council.

    The Vanguard made multiple phone calls to TMT Development and DWA Tradeshow and Exposition Services, but neither company responded by press time.

    Martinez said their goal is to let Portlanders know about substandard wages being paid by contractors in the downtown area. “A lot of people don’t realize the area standards get eroded away, and health benefits aren’t provided for workers. Who ends up paying for that? The community at large does," Martinez said.    

    A nationwide problem, according to Martinez, is the decline of quality in health care programs and wages for workers. “We’re doing what we can at our level, you know, where we’re at, and where we’re at is in the construction industry," Martinez said. “We just fight for the carpenter’s rights. We don’t care where they’re at or who they work for. We just want them to be treated fairly. Fair day’s wage, fair day’s pay for the work – that’s basically it."

    According to Sheckler, DWA and TMT are not members of the carpenters’ union and the companies have the right to pay their employees whatever they want. The carpenters’ council said that even non-union contractors can afford to, and should, pay their employees area-standard wages.

    ”It’s not a union or non-union issue, it’s just a matter of protecting the area-standard wage that carpenters have fought for in this city for over 100 years," Sheckler said.