As a Senior Engineering Associate with the City of Portland Bureau of Environmental Services (BES), Janet Strahl helps manage projects that protect Portland’s rivers. And, as a PROTEC17 Steward and Chapter Officer, she helps protect her colleagues in the workplace.
Strahl has been a long time City of Portland employee – 20 years! – and active in her union for nearly as long. She has worn many hats for the union, serving as a Steward and Chapter Treasurer when the Portland Chapter was still an independent association – the City of Portland Professional Employees Association (COPPEA) – and then as a Regional Executive Committee (REC) Delegate after COPPEA affiliated with PROTEC17 in 2013 and became the Portland Chapter.
After 19 years of supporting construction management, Strahl was excited to receive a well-deserved promotion into a project management role and begin taking the lead on some of her own projects.
“I love having the opportunity to transition to a different type of work in the middle of my career, and that my work ultimately helps keep the rivers cleaner,” she said.
Strahl has long been considered the ‘den mother’ at the Columbia Blvd. Wastewater Treatment Plant, welcoming new members, answering contract questions, and tirelessly advocating for her coworkers.
“Many of the members that I work with have never been in a union before PROTEC17,” said Strahl. “And there’s so much to learn when you start as a City employee, it can be overwhelming. Members tell me that they appreciate knowing that they have support and an advocate available.”
Recently Strahl took on new union roles as Chapter Secretary, a member of the bargaining team, and an organizer, but she still loves her role as a Steward the best. Being a Steward includes quarterly meetings with the Bureau Commissioner and the Bureau Director, allowing her to advocate for members and discuss their concerns at the highest levels of the organization and City.
“Don’t let Janet’s quiet demeanor fool you,” said Rachel Whiteside, PROTEC17 Union Representative for the Portland Chapter. “She is never afraid to speak truth to power.”
Strahl certainly recognizes the value of being a union member: “I appreciate the job security, guaranteed wage step increases, community, a sense of unity, and an opportunity to network with peers in other bureaus.”
And now, as a member of the contract negotiations team she also recognizes how having more members increases our negotiating power at the table.
Strahl was invited into her union two decades ago by her mentor, Ana Brophy, who encouraged her to get active. Bringing this relationship full circle, Strahl was instrumental in recently organizing the non-represented Capital Project Manager II’s – Ana Brophy’s current job classification – into PROTEC17. Strahl’s stellar reputation as a worker advocate played a big role in recruiting this new classification.
“I explain the benefits I’ve experienced from being a union member, and let folks know that I’m available to answer questions or listen to their concerns,” she said. “And I have a reputation for advocating for all coworkers, regardless of whether or not they are represented . . . but it’s just easier to advocate knowing that there is union support.”
In recognition of her organizing efforts with the CPM IIs and for welcoming new hires to PROTEC17, Strahl was honored at the fall REC meeting with the Organizer Extraordinaire Award