After Threatening Strike, Janitors Reach Tentative Contract Deal

I was very happy to learn this morning that the 14,000 janitors of SEIU Local 615 have reached a tentative agreement that the union is calling “good for workers, good for industry and good for New England.” For the past several weeks, these janitors have been negotiating with national cleaning contractors for a contract that delivers more livable wages and more full-time work. Last week, janitors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island voted overwhelmingly to authorize a strike against their employers, but it now appears that these workers have achieved victory without the need to strike.

At its core, this fight has been about justice. These men and women clean and maintain the halls and offices of some of the wealthiest businesses and most prestigious universities in New England, yet time and again they find themselves fighting because their wages do not pay enough to make ends meet. In order to cut costs, their employers have engaged in practices that have kept two thirds of these 14,000 men and women from full-time time employment and the health insurance benefits that go along with it. These practices are unfair to workers, their families, and the communities they live in, and the janitors have been right to push back against their employers and demand a full week’s work for a fair wage.

I am proud to say that I stood along with the janitors in this fight, and I am committed to supporting these workers in the future whenever they may need to stand up again and demand fair and just working conditions. The health and prosperity of our communities depend on the availability of good jobs that pay fair wages. Throughout my career in public service, I have fought for collective bargaining and organizing rights because I believe that labor unions play a vital role in the fight for a strong middle class. My sincere congratulations to the janitors on this hard-fought victory!

Update:

SEIU Local 615 has announced the details of the agreement.

“The tentative agreement includes hard-fought gains in:

  • Full-time work to increase 200 percent over last contract: Cleaning contractors agreed to convert a minimum of 680 jobs to full-time positions over four years—with a goal to convert even more jobs to full-time as additional hours become available. We have agreed that all newly constructed buildings of more than 450,000 square feet in the metro Boston area and Cambridge will be staffed full-time.
  • Wages:  For janitors who work in the metro Boston area, wages will increase to $17.85 by 2016, an 11.9 percent increase. Raises for workers in other markets range from 12.4 percent to 13 percent over the life of the contract.
  • Workload: For the first time, janitors—many of whom are required to clean hundreds of offices in an evening—have a process to resolve issues over excessive workloads.
  • Minimum Hours: The contract creates a new minimum shift of four hours for all janitors working in commercial office buildings of more than 100,000 square feet to be achieved through attrition.
  • Healthcare: Contractors agreed to preserve healthcare, vision and dental benefits.
  • Job Security: The contract improves job security for janitors by eliminating probationary periods in situations when a building changes cleaning contractors. This means that when there is a change of contractor at a building, workers who have more than one year of service will no longer be subject to a new probationary period.
  • Unscrupulous contractors: The agreement creates a joint labor-management funded watchdog organization to investigate and abolish illegal and unfair employment practices in the janitorial industry.
  • Personal day. For the first time, workers will earn one personal day per year starting in the second year of the contract.”

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