For an Equitable Economy

Introduction to CBA


On September 5, 2012, the Portland City Council unanimously approved the passage of Resolution No. 36954, enacting a model Community Benefits Agreement (“CBA”) for use on City-owned construction projects. In doing so, the City recognized the CBA’s promise as a powerful tool to overcome the historical underrepresentation of minorities and women in the construction industry, both at the worker and contractor levels.

The CBA was initially applied to two pilot projects: the Kelly Butte Reservoir and the Interstate Maintenance Facility Renovation. As those two projects draw to a close, it is time to acknowledge the success of Portland’s CBA in not only achieving (and exceeding) nearly all of its immediate target goals for the inclusion of women and minorities, but also its promise in the long- term process of reversing those disparities. It is also important to examine some of the reasons for those successes and to applaud the City of Portland and all of the CBA participants for these achievements.

However, the work of the CBA has only begun. In order to realize the promise of the CBA, it must be extended to additional projects as a tool to realize Portland’s commitment to achieving economic equity in both the construction trades and the larger economy. As Mayor Charlie Hales recently recognized in his January 30, 2015 State of the City address, equal economic opportunity is an issue of racial justice.1 To his credit, Mayor Hales has committed to correcting the historically disproportionate impact that poverty and a lack of economic opportunities have had on communities of color.

The CBA provides a proven, effective tool to aid the City in realizing that commitment. It has not only been effective in creating opportunity, it has forged a political coalition that has the stamina and ability to carry its initial successes through the long-term. In short, the use of the CBA on future City projects – such as the upcoming Washington Park Reservoir Improvements Project – is a no-brainer. The success of the pilot CBAs gives the City every reason to do so, and there are no countervailing reasons not to. This will not only fulfill the initial promise of the CBA as a tool for workforce and contractor diversity on City-owned construction projects, it will also help the City to meet its broader economic equity goals that ultimately will make Portland a more livable and inclusive community for all of its citizens.

Portland’s Community Benefits Agreement: A Proven Tool for Advancing the City’s Commitment to Workforce Equity