SEIU Janitors Issue Statement on Weekend Contract Victory
In a major victory for good jobs in the new green economy, Twin Cities’ janitors won support for the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products and transitions to day shift cleaning in a new tentative contract agreement reached in the early hours of Sunday morning after about 26 hours straight of bargaining.
Janitors also won improved health insurance and secure full-time work for thousands of janitors who clean the vast majority of commercial office buildings and corporate headquarters in the region.
“Our new contract will make our jobs green jobs,” said Blanca Pineda, a janitor in Roseville who had lost her sense of smell from the chemicals she had to use at work. “We will use green cleaning products that will be safer for me, and safer for the people in my building. And when buildings choose to switch to day shift cleaning, we will have the time and training to make it successful.”
The tentative agreement with the Minneapolis–Saint Paul Contract Cleaners Association – including ABM, FBG, Harvard, Mid-City, and Triangle – comes after janitors made concrete preparations to go on strike in the coming week before bargaining through the night on Saturday to reach a deal.
Over the course of the three-year contract, all Twin Cities janitors will gain access to one common health insurance plan with better benefit levels for both single and family coverage, while maintaining affordable premiums. Previously the quality of benefit was low, and this new contract provides a major step forward in reducing out of pocket costs.
“Everyone deserves quality health insurance so we don’t get stuck with huge bills if we have to go to the doctor,” said Adriana Espinosa, a janitor in downtown Minneapolis and a member of the union bargaining committee. “We stood strong, and now I will have the peace of mind that I can afford to keep my family healthy.”
After losing significant income through hour cuts or the outright loss of jobs when buildings changed contractors in recent years, janitors won the right to eight-hour full-time jobs by 2012, and job security when buildings choose to switch cleaning companies. Full-time janitors who have had their hours cut back could see their income rise by as much as 38% by January 1, 2012.
“After 12 years at one building, I lost my job, my health insurance, and all of my benefits when they decided to change cleaning contractors,” said Rosalina Gomez, a janitor facing foreclosure on her home, as well as enormous healthcare costs that drove her into personal bankruptcy. “We were able to win a raise in salary as well as a much stronger healthcare plan during a time of economic downturn. I am very proud to be standing with my sisters and brothers in our victory today.”
“Minneapolis is a city that works day and night, and we're very proud of that,” said Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak in a written statement. “But it doesn't happen by accident: thousands of hard-working janitors make it happen week in and week out, and this contract represents an important accomplishment for them. Twin Cities janitors work hard every day not only to ensure that our offices are clean, but that their families join our city's strong middle class and claim their share of the American dream. And the more they succeed in that, the more they give back to our community – and that's good for everyone. I congratulate the members of Local 26 and our city's business leaders for coming together to make sure that Minneapolis keeps working for everyone.”