Twin Cities Janitors Win Tentative Agreement on New Contract

After months of fighting, contract wins $15 for thousands of janitors, the largest wage increases in decades, concrete steps to address workload crisis, healthcare improvements and more

Minneapolis, Minn – In their 18th negotiation session, after 12 hours of bargaining that started Sunday afternoon and ended after 1 a.m. Monday morning, janitors and their employers reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract. With the tentative agreement, which will be brought to the membership this weekend for approval, janitors won big gains following their 24-hour ULP strike, civil disobedience and countless rallies and marches with supporters. Full background on the contract campaign at bottom. 

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Brahim Kone, a janitor from St. Paul and leader on the bargaining team, highlighted why janitors were so excited with the agreement and why they are advocating for members to vote yes on the contract.

“This was a hard fight, but we were fighting for a better life for our families and a step forward on rolling back racial disparities in our state, and the bargaining team is so proud of the final result that we are bringing back to the full membership” said Kone, a father of three. “Alongside many other important wins, we won the largest raise in decades for Twin Cities janitors, moving full time workers like myself over $15 immediately, and for the first time we won steps forward on addressing our workload crisis. This is a big win for our union, and a big win for our community. Janitors stood together through many months to win what is right, and we are so excited for this victory.”

Lucia Guaman, a janitor who works for Harvard cleaning RBC Plaza in Minneapolis, highlighted why the groundbreaking wins on workload are so important to janitors with SEIU.

“Winning new policies about workload, including walkthroughs with union stewards and a plan to do a worker-centered third-party study about the real challenges facing janitors so we can end this workload crisis once and for all, are huge wins for janitors and our families,” said Guaman. “My supervisor once told me, when I brought up our increasing workload, to ‘vacuum with one hand, mop with the other and dust with your mouth.’ No one deserves this treatment, but people were intimidated to discuss workload or even report when they get injured. Now we have an avenue to fix this crisis, and we hope this means we no longer will hear stories about janitors too hurt and sore from work to play with their children. We have been fighting to live, not just survive, and this is a huge step towards that goal.”

Members of the union will vote on the full proposal this weekend.

Main contract wins include:

1.  Largest Janitorial Wage Increases in Over 20 years

  • Over 60% of all janitors will immediately get raises to over $15/hour
  • All full time janitors will receive raises of $.50, $.50, $.40, $.40
  • Full timers will reach $16.42 by the end of the 4 year contract, a 12.3% increase from current wages
  • Part timers will receive the same 12.3% increase

2.  Historic New Workload Protections 

  • Worker-centered enforcement through worksite reviews and walkthroughs of janitor’s workloads
  • A groundbreaking professional study through the University of Minnesota on the workload problems in our worksites, developed through an industry wide committee

3.  Expanded Part Time Benefits

  • For the first time part-time janitors will receive full healthcare benefits and will have paid sick days

4.  Improved Benefits for Full time Janitors 

  • Healthcare benefits improved, low premiums protected and disability pay increased

5.  Better Job Security

  • Prevented boss proposal to cut full time positions in the market
  • Janitors won a “just cause” clause for the first time, which means they cannot fire janitors without reason

6.  Other Wins 

  • Company must make “good faith effort to accommodate” workers who want to take New Years Eve or Eid off from work on paid time
  • Protections of benefits when buildings switch contractors
  • A better process for accessing earned vacation time

Background on contract negotiations for janitors: On February 17th the janitors with SEIU Local 26 walked off the job on a 24-hour ULP strike, and on February 25th 11 janitors and allies took arrest in peaceful civil disobedience at U.S. Bank Headquarters. The sub-contractors who employ the janitors to clean some of the most prominent and wealthy buildings in the state held 18 negotiation sessions with janitors starting in October of 2015, including multiple marathon sessions that lasted over 10 hours. The janitors in SEIU Local 26 are over 90% people of color, so fair pay and benefits have an immediate impact on the communities most impacted by our state’s racial and economic disparities, some of the worst in the country.

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