Workers skirting poverty ask wealthy CEOs to help their families move forward
Minneapolis, MN – Just before CEOs from Minnesota’s wealthiest corporations gathered for an annual luncheon celebrating their successes, janitors and security officers who clean and protect their buildings stood down the hall at the Hilton Minneapolis to discuss their fight for a fair contract.
“As security officers, we take care of these elite companies – we just want to know that the companies are going to take care of us in return,” said Fred Anthony II. Anthony works as a security officer in the EcoLab headquarters in downtown St. Paul for a security contractor company. “I see Doug Baker nearly every day. He seems like a good guy, and I know he appreciates the work I do. But he makes more than $10 million a year – that’s nearly 400 times more what I make. Yet the contractors are talking about the workers needing to make sacrifices.”
Ecolab CEO Doug Baker was honored with the Executive of the Year award at the Business Journal Executive of the Year luncheon, which is co-sponsored by US Bank.
“I clean the buildings for some of the richest corporation in our state, said Alfredo Estrada, a Local 26 janitor. “I ensure that each day, employees come to our building and are able to do their best work without worrying about whether the building will be clean or not. The rich, corporate elite here today are celebrating their corporate leadership – will they live up to that leadership and tell their contractors to give us the living wages and affordable healthcare we need to support our families?”
“The corporate elite in this state – US Bank, Target, Wells Fargo – make their profits in part because of the work of the people in their buildings, including SEIU Local 26 members,” said Javier Morillo, SEIU Local 26 President. “I’m happy to see the success of these CEOs, but we need to recognize they stand on the shoulders of a lot of people, including janitors, security officers, taxpayers, teachers, everybody. They need to be recognized, too.”
For the first time ever, Local 26 contracts covering more than 6,000 janitors and security officers expired at the same time. Workers have been negotiating in good faith for months, yet the employers continue bargaining in bad faith.
“A federal mediator has been called in, but we’ve still gotten nowhere,” said Anthony. “Employers are proposing eliminating huge groups of workers from union membership and moving hundreds of full-time workers to part-time hours. This would cut access to benefits like healthcare and sick time.”
Local 26 will hold back-to-back strike votes Saturday morning at the Minneapolis Convention Center over unfair labor practices to authorize a strike among members. They have started raising money for a strike fund and are circulating petitions with workers.
“We don’t want to strike, we just want to come to work and know that we can continue supporting our families,” said Estrada. He and his wife have two daughters. “But our employers don’t want to negotiate in good faith. They’re leaving us with no other option. Together, we will stand strong and unlock a better future for Minnesota.”