Minneapolis, MN – Today bargaining committees representing SEIU Local 26 janitors and security officers head back to the table with their employers in a last-ditch effort to negotiate a fair contract that would improve 6,000 jobs in the Twin Cities. The workers voted to approve a strike earlier this month, and just this week announced Sunday as the deadline to win new contracts before going on strike.
“We’re ready and willing to negotiate,” said Alfredo Estrada, a janitor at the Minnesota Center. “We’ll be here as late as it takes to negotiate a fair contract. We have sleeping bags and pillows and we’re ready to talk through the night to make sure that hard work gets rewarded in Minnesota again.”
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association have told Local 26 they are also prepared to stay as late as it takes. Initial proposals from the janitorial employers included cutting more than 1,200 full-time positions, which would eliminate employer-based insurance benefits and outsource employers’ healthcare costs to Minnesota taxpayers—without the consent or knowledge of the public.
“Employers need to take their responsibility seriously,” said Brahim Kone, a janitor at Flint Hills refinery. “We look forward to finding an agreement that allows us to work our way into the middle class and move the entire community forward.”
Security employers, however, have said they will only negotiate until 4:00 p.m.
“The employers have offered nothing but cuts – cuts to wages, cuts to full-time positions, cuts to healthcare benefits. It feels like yet another attack on the middle class,” said Paul Keith, a security officer who works at the Retek building downtown.
“They want to move us backward, destroying and eliminating jobs for the middle class. And to make it worse, they don’t seem committed to negotiating a new contract. After today, they aren’t willing to meet again for bargaining until mid-March. One or two days a month is all they are willing to give us. We set a deadline because we need to show them that we can’t let this continue dragging out.”
A new contract would represent the first important victory in a planned “Unlock Our Future” week of action being coordinated by members of Minnesota community, student, environmental, and labor groups.
Just this week these groups–including ISAIAH, 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—sent a joint letter to the heads of U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo, and Target urging the corporations to do their part to resolve the crisis impacting Minnesota’s middle class—immediately.
Barring substantial action on improving housing, state revenue, banking practices, schools and jobs by Sunday, February 24 at noon, members of these organizations are vowing direct, dramatic, citizen action beginning Monday.
“There’s a lot at stake today,” said Javier Morillo, president of SEIU Local 26. “For the more than 6,000 workers affected by these contracts, this is about stable, full-time jobs, about being able to provide for their families without public assistance. The corporate elite – U.S. Bank, Wells Fargo and Target – are all enjoying success, and it’s time for the workers—the profit providers—to succeed too.”
Separate contracts for janitors and security officers expired simultaneously on December 31 – since then, more than 6,000 workers throughout the Twin Cities metropolitan have been working without a contract. Janitors and security officers work side-by-side, cleaning and protect property for contractors at some of Minnesota’s richest corporations.
“We’ve made it clear that if we don’t have a contract coming out of these negotiations, we’re hitting the streets,” said Fred Anthony II, a security officer who works at the EcoLab building in downtown St. Paul. “It’s time for these companies to show some leadership and help solve the crises in our communities to unlock our future. Let’s be partners for progress. Let’s put the interest of the community first. We’re ready and willing to bargain – let’s get this done today.”