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Monday, February 7, 2011

Workers Picket City Shelter for Youth and Sex Trafficking Victims

Posted by Sarah Mirk on Mon, Feb 7, 2011 at 12:40 PM

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There's some labor unrest over at Janus Youth, the social services provider that secured a $285,000 city contract to provide shelter space for sex trafficked teens. This morning, workers and members of the International Industrial Workers of the World (IWW) lined NE Couch outside Janus's administrative headquarters, shouting chants and waving signs accusing Janus of pushing an unfair contract in union negotiations.

The workers for Janus program Harry's Mother and the downtown Street Light Youth Shelter say Janus has not granted them a wage raise administrators promised would arrive after inking the city contract. Janus Youth runs 20 programs for roughly 6,000 troubled kids in the Portland area annually. Thanks to an infusion of city and county dollars, the shelter associated with Harry's Mother now offers four beds specifically for underage sex trafficking victims.

Youth counselor Laura Taylor, who usually spends her days working with the 9-17 year old kids who have wound up in Janus programs either through the foster care system or at the behest of police or their parents, says the approximately 18 workers at Harry's Mother were promised a 50 cent/hour raise seven months ago but it has yet to be delivered. The IWW union also disagrees with a new clause in their contract that would force legal arbitration if someone appeals their firing, rather than the current method of peers reviewing their situation. The IWW says paying a lawyer to arbitrate would cost $700-1,500 a day.

"Janus has been working hard on their image as a caring company," says Taylor. "But they'd rather pay a lawyer $1,500 a day than pay their workers fairly."

Taylor and the other picketers were using their day off to protest. "The intention isn't to shut down services, I feel like we're out here to let people know that we're being treated unfairly," said youth counselor Hannah Rosales as she held a sign featuring a Janus administrator in a suit picking the pocket of a street kid.

Janus Executive Director Dennis Morrow is out of the office today and therefore unavailable for comment.

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