Minneapolis, MN – As more than 6,000 Twin Cities janitors and security officers continue to negotiate with their employers for good, family-sustaining jobs, they are joining with community, environmental, student, and labor organizations in common cause to strengthen Minnesota’s beleaguered middle class.
“We are more than janitors and more than security officers,” said Brahim Kone, an SEIU Local 26 janitor at Flint Hills refinery. “We are taxpayers, renters, homeowners, and bank customers. Above all we are neighbors and concerned Minnesotans.”
“Twin Cities janitors and security officers clean and protect properties owned by some of the world’s largest corporations,” said Javier Morillo, President of SEIU Local 26. “Although these hardworking Minnesotans provide these corporations with millions in profits, they are forced to live in poverty.”
Contracts for janitors and security officers with SEIU Local 26 expired simultaneously on December 31. SEIU Local 26 has been back at the bargaining table since members authorized a strike on February 9, but at this point, employers still have yet to address any of the major concerns, including massive cuts to wages and benefits. Workers seek to retain and improve access to employer-paid health benefits and sufficient working hours so they can support their families. Full-time hours boost overall incomes while providing access to employer-provided health coverage, shifting health insurance costs from taxpayers to building owners.
“We’ve been in negotiations for months,” said Fred Anthony II, an SEIU Local 26 security officer at EcoLab in St. Paul. “The employers have made it clear they want to keep us in poverty. Every day it is becoming clearer that a strike may be necessary. While we continue to hope for the best, we are preparing for the worst.”
If employers do not propose fair contracts that help move workers forward by Sunday, Local 26 members are likely to strike the week of February 5, perhaps as early as Monday. The strike, over Unfair Labor Practices allegedly committed by the janitors and security officers’ employers, will seek to call public attention to the need for a thriving, rising middle class in order to grow our economy and unlock our future.
“Janitors and security officers have realized that we are all in this together,” continued Morillo. “Now we will join tens of thousands of Minnesotans who are also struggling with low wages, crumbling neighborhoods, rundown schools and an array of other disparities that weaken our communities.”
Janitors and security officers are coming together under the banner of “Unlock Our Future” with Minnesota organizations – including ISAIAH Minnesota, TakeAction Minnesota, MN Neighborhoods Organizing for Change, Minnesotans for a Fair Economy, CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en La Lucha, a Minneapolis workers’ center), SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, and SEIU Local 284 – to urge corporations operated by the richest 1% of our society to do their part to resolve the crisis impacting Minnesota’s middle class.
After two years of unfruitful negotiations around many middle-class issues, the group has sent a letter to the heads of Target, USBank and Wells Fargo urging them to take immediate action on housing, state revenue, banking practices, schools, and jobs by Sunday, February 24 at noon. The announcement came from leaders at a press conference held this morning at the State Office Building in St. Paul who all spoke of the need to stop waiting and to prepare to take action.
“For the past two years, these organizations have been talking separately to Minneapolis business leaders about each one of these problems,” Morillo said. “Little or nothing has been done. Now we have all come together under a common banner and a common request: ‘Unlock Our Future.’