06-18-2018  12:28 pm      •     
The Skanner Report
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NEWS BRIEFS

MRG Foundation Announces Spring 2018 Grantees

Recipients include Oregon DACA Coalition, Kúkátónón Children’s African Dance Troupe, Komemma Cultural Protection Association ...

CareOregon Awards $250,000 for Housing Projects

Recipients include Rogue Retreat, Bridges to Change, Luke Dorf, Transition Projects and Bridge Meadows ...

The Honorable Willie L. Brown to Receive NAACP Spingarn Medal

The award recognizes Brown’s lifelong commitment to the community, equality and civil rights ...

Watching Oprah: The Oprah Winfrey Show and American Culture

New Smithsonian exhibit looks at how Oprah Winfrey shaped American culture and vice versa ...

Oregon Historical Society, Oregon Black Pioneers Host ‘Celebrate History and Make a Difference Now!’ Event June 9

Representatives from local organizations will talk about how individuals can get involved in promoting social change ...

Grants Pass man, 39, drowns in Rogue River

GRANTS PASS, Ore. (AP) — The Josephine County sheriff says a Grants Pass man drowned in the Rogue River.Sheriff Dave Daniel says it happened Saturday afternoon when 39-year-old James Dawson tried to swim to shore after his watercraft quit working. He was not wearing a life jacket.Crews...

Some forest trails remain closed long after 2017 wildfire

IDAHHA, Ore. (AP) — Some trails in Oregon's Willamette National Forest remain closed due to damage from a wildfire that ripped through the area last year.The Register-Guard reports the Whitewater Trail into the Jefferson Park area remains closed. Other trails, including some in the Fall...

UW to pay 7K to settle Republicans' free-speech lawsuit

SEATTLE (AP) — The University of Washington will pay 7,000 to settle a lawsuit filed after the college billed a Republican club security fees for a rally.The UW College Republicans sued, saying the bill for ,000 to cover security costs for the campus event violated free-speech and...

Old farm warehouse may be saved as part of Hanford history

RICHLAND, Wash. (AP) — One of Washington state's most endangered historic places is located on the Hanford Nuclear Reservation near Richland. That's according to the Washington Trust for Historic Preservation.The long warehouse along the Columbia River was once owned by farmers Paul and Mary...

OPINION

What Happened? Assessing the Singapore Summit

For all its weaknesses, we are better off having had the summit than not ...

Redlining Settlement Fails to Provide Strong Penalties

A recent settlement of a federal redlining lawsuit is yet another sign that justice is still being denied ...

5 Lessons on Peace I Learned from My Cat Soleil

Dr. Jasmine Streeter takes some cues on comfort from her cat ...

Research Suggests Suicides By Racial and Ethnic Minorities are Undercounted

Sociologist Dr. Kimya Dennis describes barriers to culturally-specific suicide research and treatment ...

AFRICAN AMERICANS IN THE NEWS

Greece: 2 face racism charges over beatings of immigrants

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek police say they have arrested one suspected extreme nationalist and are seeking a second as suspects in a pair of attacks on immigrants in Athens.A police statement issued Monday said the suspects allegedly attacked two Pakistanis on Friday, stole a mobile phone...

Redistricting changes headed to the ballot in several states

A U.S. Supreme Court ruling Monday on redistricting lawsuits in Wisconsin and Maryland comes as several states already are considering changes to the criteria and processes that will be used to draw legislative districts after the 2020 Census.In most places, the state legislature and governor are...

States' redistricting plans facing challenges in court

The U.S. Supreme Court on Monday declined to block the use of legislative districts in Wisconsin and Maryland in separate cases that had alleged unconstitutional partisan gerrymandering. Instead, the high court allowed lower courts to continue considering the claims.The cases are among several that...

ENTERTAINMENT

Review: 'Jurassic World 2' leans on nostalgia, contrivances

Here's the good news: "Jurassic World: Fallen Kingdom " is more fun than "Jurassic World." It's not exactly a high bar, but still a welcome surprise. In the hands of a new director, J.A. Bayona, with Chris Pratt's high-wattage charisma on full blast and a fair amount of self-aware humor intact,...

'Incredibles 2' crushes animation record with 0 million

LOS ANGELES (AP) — The combined powers of superheroes, the Pixar brand and a drought of family-friendly films helped "Incredibles 2" become the best animated opening of all time, the biggest PG-rated launch ever and the 8th highest film launch overall.Disney estimated Sunday that the film...

AFI highlights Clooney's life of acting, activism and pranks

LOS ANGELES (AP) — George Clooney's Hollywood career spans more than three decades, with memorable roles including fighting vampires, playing Batman and drifting through space in "Gravity." But Clooney's other accomplishments, including directing, screenwriting and activism, led to him...

U.S. & WORLD NEWS

Puerto Rico struggles with jump in asthma cases post-Maria

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico (AP) — Shortly after he turned 2, Yadriel Hernandez started struggling to breathe....

Apple sets up iPhones to relay location for 911 calls

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Apple is trying to drag the U.S.'s antiquated system for handling 911 calls into the...

Compulsive video-game playing could be mental health problem

GENEVA (AP) — Obsessive video gamers know how to anticipate dangers in virtual worlds. The World Health...

Israel PM, Jordan king meet after months of strained ties

AMMAN, Jordan (AP) — Jordan's King Abdullah II and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu have met after...

Geraldine McCaughrean wins Carnegie children's book prize

LONDON (AP) — British writer Geraldine McCaughrean has won the prestigious Carnegie Medal for children's...

Greek far-right lawmaker arrested on treason-linked charges

ATHENS, Greece (AP) — Greek anti-terrorism police arrested an extreme far-right lawmaker on treason-linked...

Helen Silvis of The Skanner

When Hurricane Katrina hit Louisiana, most of the 90 people working for the Portland-based Coast Janitorial Co. lost their homes. Coast — which has its home offices on North Alberta Street — has a contract with Lockheed-Martin Corp. and NASA to provide maintenance, furniture moving, hazardous waste disposal and pest control services to the NASA facility at Arnold Air Force Base in New Orleans.

"The majority of our employees lost their homes and they have been living in shelters all around the country," said Bernadette Artharee, the company's executive director.

Many Coast staff members found refuge in the Superdome and have harrowing stories to tell. Some — who found refuge in Phoenix, Las Vegas and Indianapolis — say they may not return to New Orleans because their future prospects look brighter in their adopted cities, Artharee said.

"One woman told me: 'I can't come back. I'm doing much better here,' " she said. "But I think it also has a lot to do with what they went through psychologically."

The hurricane was a logistical nightmare for the company; without any administrative staff the firm couldn't maintain any records. Nevertheless, Coast was able to keep on paying the staff.

"Our customer is still paying the wages, even for the employees who have not been able to return to us," Artharee said. "It has really helped our employees get back on their feet. Some of them have lost everything."

Some Coast employees have been with the company for more than 10 years, and most want to return, said Hasan Artharee, a manager with the company. He expects 85 percent of the staff to return by the end of the year. In the meantime, some temporary workers are commuting up to 250 miles each way to work.

Finding a place to live can be difficult, he said since rents in the New Orleans area have practically doubled since the hurricane.

That's why about six people currently are living onsite at the air force base, sleeping on air mattresses and cots. Coast's goal is to help every employee find housing before the end of the year.

 "Our union down there is also getting housing for employees and helping them get back to work," Bernadette Artharee said. "They've been able to find some apartments below market rate."

The company has a long track record of working closely with union officials. Bernadette Artharee's father, Henry Scott, started Coast in 1957. Along with his entrepreneurial spirit, Scott had a strong commitment to social justice. So he joined forces with union organizers to create living-wage jobs with retirement and health benefits, Bernadette Artharee said.

"We've been union for as long as I can remember — 30 or maybe 40 years."

In the highly competitive service industry, it is not easy to pay union wages and offering health and retirement benefits said service employees union (SEIU) organizer Wesley Jones.

"In this industry the costs are all labor — there are some materials costs, but wages are by far the largest cost," Jones said. "So for people to offer lower prices, they have to figure out how to pay employees less. That creates a race to the bottom where responsible employers who want to provide decent wages and benefits get pushed out of the market."

Coast managers say that this last year has been tough, but they are going after several contracts in Oregon and have high hopes of success.

"We want jobs that are union because they pay more, but there are instances where we might get in at a lower rate and later on we will talk to our customers about paying union rates," Bernadette Artharee said.

Union representatives said research shows that while non-union companies often offer lower rates, they have higher staff turnover and are less reliable.

"Where you have non-union companies that pay low wages to workers, you also sometimes find rampant wage and hour violations which can result in lawsuits," said Pooja Bhatt, a graduate student completing an internship with SEIU.

Hasan Artharee said all Coast employees have health benefits and a pension plan through the SEIU. "I feel that leads to a healthy community — when people have health benefits," He said. "It cuts down on injuries and accidents.
"We've been going after contracts here in Oregon," said Hasan. "Right now, we're waiting to hear about one very large, high-profile contract. If we get this one it's going to be a real celebration."

Hasan didn't want to give details about the contract, but said Coast will know by the end of this year. If successful, the company will be able to add 60 more staff — most of them janitors.

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