Within the next couple of weeks, Portland City Council is expected to decide on renewing the Portland Business Alliance's [PBA] contract to provide security in downtown's "urban core," potentially giving the group the contract to secure and maintain Waterfront Park as well. In the process, the PBA has gained an odd ally.
The contract has been expired for months, and was opened up to other companies during a bidding process. The PBA's main competitor has been a company called Wackenhut, a Florida-based security firm—and that has progressive union SEIU hopping mad.
According to the union's political advisor, Felisa Hagins, Wackenhut has a history of anti-union behavior and "security lapses"—that's put the union in the unlikely position of supporting the PBA.
The PBA and SEIU Local 49 have been on opposite ends of many local political battles in recent years—the latest being the race for Erik Sten's city council seat. SEIU endorsed Sten—Sten's challenger, Ginny Burdick, was largely funded by the PBA and its members, and the organization also dumped a great deal of money into the failed attempt to derail Sten's public campaign finance program.
Still, SEIU has spent time and energy at city hall over the past few months trying to convince commissioners that Wackenhut shouldn't get the contract, and that the PBA should.
"In a roundabout way, I guess we are supporting the PBA," Hagins says. "We think that Wackenhut is not the right company to come into Portland and get this contract. We need a local company to take over at this point—even if that company is headed by the PBA."