Since 1997, the Portland Business Alliance (PBA) has held a contract with the city to provide security and maintenance in downtown parks—when that contract ended earlier this year, the city sent out a request for proposals to renew the agreement. Unsurprisingly, the city is poised to hand the contract right back to the PBA in a vote Wednesday, September 20.
In addition to the parks it currently provides "special services" to, the new contract would also include Waterfront Park, the Eastbank Esplanade, and Couch Park.
The only other viable candidate for the contract was a Florida-based company called Wackenhut, which has limited business in the City of Portland. But Wackenhut had two things going against it—the city's longstanding relationship with the PBA, and solid opposition from local unions.
Wackenhut's alleged history of union busting—plus security lapses and inadequate training—forced SEIU Local 49 into supporting the PBA, despite a long history of the union opposing the organization.
When asked if she was celebrating PBA's victory, SEIU Political Director Felisa Hagins paused for a second, then said, "We're celebrating a victory in defeating an anti-union company that had no place in Portland."
"We're concerned about other city contracts Wackenhut has," Hagins added. Specifically, she referred to the company's contract to provide security in city hall—including a handful of guards who are now carrying concealed weapons.
"The fact that a company with a history of security lapses and inadequate training is carrying guns in city hall should concern people," Hagins said.
According to the website eyeonwackenhut.com (which is hosted by SEIU), the company lost its contract to provide security to the Department of Homeland Security headquarters in DC—in part for mishandling a suspected anthrax attack. They also, according to the site, failed to give their guards radios or batons, "leaving them few options beyond the lethal force of their handguns."
Perhaps more importantly to city hall, though, Wackenhut has taken fire for allowing their guards to take weapons exams multiple times in order to pass. When asked about the allegations, local Wackenhut Manager Ben Blair said, "No comment."