Janitors: “We Expect Dignity, Respect, and a Path to $15 in New Agreement”
Voted to Authorize Strike to Communicate Seriousness in Negotiations
DENVER – On June 15, 2016, more than 700 janitors and supporters holding large brooms and mops high marched and then voted to authorize a strike during the busy downtown lunchtime, sending a message to building owners and cleaning companies that they are serious about achieving a path to $15/hour in their new contract that is currently under negotiations.The master contract covering more than 2,400 janitors with 27 cleaning companies operating 180 buildings around metro Denver expires on July 2.
Janitors voted to authorize a strike, holding red “strike” cards over their heads, empowering the leaders to call a strike when the current contract expires should it become necessary.
“Right now my wages are so low I can’t even afford to take my children to the doctor when they are sick which is heartbreaking and just so wrong,” said Cristina Rodriguez, a janitor for ABLE. “I’m 100 percent ready to strike so we can earn a path to $15, enough to raise our families with dignity.”
Colorado’s commercial real estate market is booming – vacancy rates are at a 15-year low and rents at a record high, including an almost eight percent increase in 2015 alone. The cleaning and maintenance provided by janitors allows building owners to reap record profits.
Every night these janitors clean 90 million square feet, scrubbing 200,000 restrooms and emptying one million trash cans. Each janitor cleans up to 65,000 square feet per night– the equivalent of 65 typical houses, or eight houses an hour. If the janitors go on strike, office workers around the region will be greeted with overflowing trashcans and filthy bathrooms.
“I do my part by working all night so that the office workers at Denver Financial have a clean, pleasant workplace but even so, I can barely afford even the basics for my family,” said Angeles Oñate, a janitor for CCS. “Working full-time, shouldn’t I be able to afford a roof over my head and food on the table for my kids?”
A team of seven janitors are in the process of negotiating the new contract with representatives covering twenty-seven janitorial companies. The last contract, negotiated in 2012, during the recession when Denver real estate was hit hard, witnessed janitors understanding the state of the economy and yielded only modest increases that have failed to keep up with Denver’s skyrocketing cost of living.
In there have been no major strikes in the Denver Metro region for over 25 years. Over the past 3 years, there have been many day-long strikes by hundreds of workers in the ongoing Fight for $15 and a union campaign.
Justice for Janitors, a campaign by SEIU, has helped underpaid workers organize to raise wages and increase basic benefits and job security for janitors and their families.