Saturday, June 03, 2006

Coming Through for PGE Park Workers, Finally

I'm not sure where Portland mayor Tom Potter's head has been recently, but either his aides are not helping him screen stuff that comes before him, or he spends all of his time pacing City Hall nervously wondering if the FBI was watching him. Last week he got caught doing the bidding of the development bureaus, looking to "suspend" the citizen's planning review council, only to have Amanda Fritz show him up and save the council when Potter withdrew his ordinance.

And now this past Wednesday, Potter has again looked out of step or not in the game. In a rather little-noticed item in The O today, Potter was rebuked on a vote to table yet again their fair-wage promise to PGE Park concession workers:
Potter put the program on the council agenda last week, then sought to remove it amid last-minute legal concerns. City Attorney Linda Meng said she worried that workers could legally become city employees and wanted more time to research the question.

All three commissioners plan to support the approximately $150,000 annual subsidy to ensure wages of $10.28 an hour for hot dog vendors, ticket takers and other seasonal ballpark employees. Potter has been lukewarm, saying in December that he wasn't convinced it was necessary and on Tuesday that he wasn't sure how he'd vote.

Sten said it seemed that city staff had been slow to follow through on the council majority's wishes to pay the subsidy. He told the City Council: "I am personally embarrassed by this. I voted three times. . . . I am not comfortable putting this off yet again for an undetermined date. These folks were promised this money by the council."
The situation here involves a lack of good oversight regarding the contract the City made with the new managers of PGE Park, who neglected to write in the fair wage requirement that had been kept with the previous contractors. The City insists on fair wages paid to employees working for the City under private contract (parking garage workers, for instance), so without the provision in the PGE workers' part of the deal, they are unique in being paid around seven bucks an hour to work for the City.

It's an issue of fairness, and it's cleaning up the mess honorably and fulfilling the philosophical stand Portland has taken on living-wage standards. It also prevents the city from reasonably claiming it's an exception to those which subsidize sports teams for little economic benefit--PGE Park just becomes another place where minimum wage workers can push food and clean up after people with better jobs. And there's another economic angle on concessionaire wages: for many tourists and residents, the people serving them at the ballpark represent the City in some measure, and minimum wage workers make for grumpy representatives of the City. (Which is not to excuse it, but you get what you pay for, and that includes labor).

Is there something distracting the mayor? I support his letter regarding the FBI, and as I said he did withdraw his ordinance when challenged by Fritz. So he's not losing his marbles. But he seems seriously...unbriefed on some things when he gets into chambers, like he'd just seen the agenda his staff placed for him.

To the people who try to get actual liquid beer and not foam to the very top of the cup, congratulations. To the people who fill an entire side of the plastic tray with nacho sauce for my chips, enjoy the boost. And to the rest room attendants and Shiatsu guys in the men's bathroom, I'll see you on the next...what? You've never been to PGE Park? Oh man, you oughta see what you're paying for!