Joined by community supporters, including Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, janitors continue to lead fight to ‘Reclaim Your Dreams’ and win contract that helps improve racial and economic disparities
Minneapolis, MN — Janitors with SEIU Local 26 voted today to authorize their bargaining committee to call a unfair labor practice strike as their employers continue to stall and intimidate workers in bargaining over a new contract for the 4,000 janitors in the Twin Cities. Workers have been fighting for a $15 floor for all workers, a fix to a growing workload crisis and policies that support healthy families. In response they have only seen stalling from employers. The bargaining committee announced a Feb. 14th deadline to reach a fair contract that allows for healthy families and strengthens our community by fighting to address income and racial disparities plaguing our state. If a contract agreement is not reached by Feb. 14th, the committee could call a strike at any point going forward.
Adriana Espinosa, a Local 26 member and janitor employed by ABM to clean the Arts Institute, highlighted why she voted “yes” to authorizing an unfair labor practice strike and how a $15 floor being proposed by janitors would help families like hers and bring positive change as our state is facing harrowing racial and economic disparities.
“I voted to authorize an unfair labor practice strike because I am part time, and make $13.16 per hour, and many of my co-workers make as little as $11 per hour. We work incredibly hard, and a $15 minimum wage would mean more stability for my family and would allow us to live, not just survive. We found that raising wages to $15 for all janitors would lead to tens of millions of dollars each year being pumped into communities across the Twin Cities. Janitors with Local 26 are overwhelmingly people of color, which means fair raises for janitors would be going back into areas that have been left behind by our economy for far too long and help boost our economy for all of us,” said Espinosa. “When families have fair pay and decent benefits, it helps to improve our whole community. Winning a fair contract will help the families of Local 26 members, but can also help gain momentum as we fight to close the racial and economic disparities in our state.”
Another issue that has been brought to the bargaining table by janitors, and ignored or dismissed by employers, was the growing workload facing janitors. Many janitors in the Twin Cities clean the equivalent of more than 20 homes per night, every single day. Elia Starkweather is a janitor and Local 26 member who is sub-contracted to clean the Ameriprise tower in Minneapolis. She has seen the increased workload firsthand, watching staff levels drop and finding herself and her family suffering from the growing pressure.
“I voted to authorize an unfair labor practice strike because our employers are stalling around proposals brought forward that deal directly with our health and our ability to enjoy time with our families. We are doing more and more with less and less, like so many Minnesotans, which puts intense pressure us each and every night. I clean the equivalent of over 20 houses per night, and that has led to me getting hurt and hurts with my ability to play with my children when I get off work,” said Starkweather. “This is happening all over, and it isn’t right. We work hard, and do good work, but we are fighting so that we can have reasonable workloads that allow us to live, not just survive. If our employers won’t have a real conversation about fixing this, we will have to strike.”
Joining the crowd of over 500 janitors and supporters was Lt. Gov. Tina Smith, who shared her encouragement with janitors and commended the workers voting to strike for leading the fight to help move our state in a more fair and equal direction. “The Governor and I support your fight because we know that sometimes you have to fight in order to be treated fairly,” said Smith in her speech to the crowd before janitors voted to authorize their ULP strike.
Janitors have been negotiating since October with their employers. Their current three-year contract expired on Dec. 31st.
SEIU Local 26 is Minnesota’s Property Services Union, uniting more than 6,000 janitors, security officers, and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. SEIU unites more than 225,000 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.