1) MN, what does that Contracts are expiring in December this year for 6000 janitors and Security officers in mean for me?
Union Contract negotiations are our opportunity to improve our wages and working conditions with the companies. To understand what impact we can have, look at our history in the last 10 years. Most janitors in the twin cities in 2002 made $8.40/hour, working part time with no health insurance. Security officers at that time had no union, and often made minimum wage, around $7/hour.
Janitors organized, hundreds marched through downtown, and after months of union contract negotiations with the companies they voted to strike two different times in 2006 and 2009. As a result, over the last 8 years the janitorial companies agreed to increase wages to what we have today: $13.42/hour, with 8 hour full time positions in all large buildings, and with individual health insurance for $30/month.
Security officers organized and won the union downtown in 2004, but the companies refused to raise their standards significantly, so the workers went out on a 1 day strike in 2007. The companies came back to the table and agreed to 50 cent raises each year for 5 years, bringing security officers downtown to about the same pay rates as the janitors have today. Security officers in the suburbs just joined our union late last year, and have begun negotiations to raise their standards as well.
2) So what is in store for us this year in our contract negotiations?
Across the country this year close to 100,000 janitors negotiated their contracts. The story in each city has been sadly similar. Building owners and companies like ABM and Harvard proposed major take-aways (such as trying to cut 4 dollars per hour from new hires in New York, increasing the cost of healthcare in SF, and eliminating wage guarantees in Houston, to name just a few).
But Janitors were ready to fight back: In New York 30,000 janitors voted to strike and held huge marches, in San Francisco and LA they did civil disobedience, shutting down parts of their cities, and in Houston the Janitors struck, with support from all over the country. Nine members of Local 26 went to Houston to help on that strike, and we held support actions in Minneapolis through out the spring and summer.
In every city janitors were able to stop the takeaways, protect or improve their healthcare, and win raises (50 cents in NY), because they were ready to fight. Our turn is next.
3) How do I get involved?
Mass planning meetings have already begun our campaign to win new contracts for Security and Janitors in MN. In June we held our leadership assembly with 100 stewards, and in September over 150 members kicked off our contract fight by discussing our potential demands, and launching our contract survey. If you haven’t filled out a survey yet, it in this mailing.
Make sure to fill it out and send back to the union hall at 706 1st St. N , #110, Minneapolis, 55401, or fill it out online at our website seiu26.org.