MINNEAPOLIS – SEIU Local 26 announced today that they will hold a 24-hour ULP strike one day the week of February 24th if employers continue their Unfair Labor Practices of stalling and refusing to reach a fair contract for the 4,000 commercial janitors. SEIU Local 26 will announce the exact date ahead of the workers walking off the job. The two sides have been negotiating for months, but so far management has stalled and refused to bargain fairly on demands around wages, paid sick days and a green training program that would help workers and be a way for tenants in giant office buildings to address their huge role in climate change in Minnesota. You can watch the Union’s press conference HERE.
“The commercial janitorial bargaining, the largest of our groups with 4,000 members, have been pushed to a strike. We will hold a 24-hour strike one day next week and also have lots of activities around the metro as part of our ‘Week of Action,’ said President Iris Altamirano. “Talks broke down Monday and we’re ready to strike for higher wages, green cleaning jobs programs and the sick days our families deserve. We are a union that has been working very hard to lift up this industry. Our members do really hard work, putting their bodies on the line, ensuring buildings across the Twin Cities are clean. Too often our work is invisible because we come to work when others are heading home for dinner, yet many of our members haven’t had dinner with their families in years.”
The janitorial workers are employed by over a dozen different subcontractors like ABM & Marsden to clean corporate buildings like IDS, Capella Tower, EcoLab, U.S Bank, Wells Fargo, United Health Group, Ameriprise and many more across the Twin Cities.
George Mullins, a 30-year janitor who works for Marsden Janitorial cleaning in downtown Minneapolis, shared why he is ready to strike next week.
“We’ve been bargaining for months and are sick of the excuses. Some parents are working two jobs and don’t have the pay and benefits to take care of our families, all while the news goes on about how strong the economy is. We want our companies to know we are serious,” said Mullins. “The cost of everything – food, gas, rent – keeps going up, but our employers are offering us an even smaller raise than our last contract and won’t move on other important issues. We are united and ready to win what our families deserve.”
Elia Starkweather, a janitor and Vice President at SEIU Local 26 who works for Harvard cleaning Ameriprise, shared why she is ready to strike.
“The bosses continue to say no to everything we’ve asked to help our families, so I’m ready to strike to win what we need,” said Starkweather. “We’re looking for higher wages because the rent keeps going up and our wages need to go up as well, sick days so we can care for our families, and green jobs so our work doesn’t destroy our bodies and our planet.”
The group is part of the 8,000 members of SEIU Local 26 who are subcontracted to clean and protect buildings in the Twin Cities (including some housing the richest corporations in the world) who have been negotiating seven contracts for over three months. The group unanimously voted Feb. 8th to authorize a ULP strike to stop the companies’ Unfair Labor Practices of stalling and refusing to give information, and to settle a fair contract.
The news comes as 2,000 security officers with SEIU Local 26, who had also authorized a strike, won a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract late Tuesday night that saw wage increases of 14% over the next four years in addition to other gains.
Dan Scoggins, a security officer who was on the security bargaining team, shared the exciting news about gains in the security.
“We’re excited that we came to an agreement that helps 2,000 security officers see big raises and other gains that will help our families,” said Scoggins. “We’re here to support the commercial janitors who have decided to strike to win what they deserve because we are all in this together.”
Union members will make picket signs Saturday at the Union Hall. (Formal advisory to come.)