Labor Movement

Janitors Announce That if No Deal is Reached at Friday Bargaining Session, They Will Go on Strike Next Week

While keeping the exact date open, janitors pledge to walk off the job cleaning some of the most prominent and wealthy buildings in the Twin Cities

Minneapolis, Minn— Twin Cities janitors with SEIU Local 26 held a press conference today outside of the U.S. Bank Tower in Downtown Minneapolis to announced their next steps as we come close to the February 14th strike deadline set by the union bargaining committee to reach a fair contract or walk off the job on an Unfair Labor Practice (ULP) strike. Negotiations between the 4,000 janitors represented by the union and the sub-contractors who employee them to clean some of the most prominent buildings in the Twin Cities have seen management stall, delay and intimidate workers, which led to the January 23rd vote where members unanimously voted to authorize a strike if a fair contract is not reached.

SEIU Janitors_rsBrahim Kone, a St. Paul janitor who is a member of Local 26 and a leader on the bargaining team, shared that there is one more bargaining session before the strike deadline, and if an agreement isn’t reached, there will be a strike on a still undisclosed date next week.

“If no contract is reached at tomorrow’s negotiating session, then our Feb 14th deadline will pass without a new contract. If that happens, one day next week — a day we won’t announce until is happens —  we will call a strike in the morning and have workers walk off the job at strategic locations across in some of the most prominent buildings and corporations in the Metro,” said Kone. “Janitors are working more and more, yet too many families are falling behind and our state continues to be one of the most segregated, unequal places in the country for people of color. We are fighting to win a fair contract for families in Local 26, over 90% of whom are people of color, but also to change the conversation in our state and begin to roll back the harmful racial and economic disparities that have grown over the last three decades. We have said throughout this fight we are leading the way so all Minnesotans can “Reclaim Your Dreams,” and we believe we can a fair contract and a better state for all of us. If needed, we are willing to stand up,  fight back and go on strike to make that a reality.”

Samuel Castenada, a janitor for ABM, spoke about the workload crisis facing workers, which was the subject of a recent report about the changes, and dangers, of the janitorial industry. (Read the report, titled Back Breaking Profits, HERE)

“Many of us now have to finish cleaning jobs that used to take more than 12 hours in an 8 hour shift because of new pressures from our employers. Many janitors like myself clean the equivalent of over 20 homes in a night. Imagine cleaning 20 houses every day! I recently had an operation on my shoulder, and many of my co-workers are getting sick or injured as well,” said Castenada. “That is why we are coming together and fighting back. We are ready to go on strike next week if a fair contract is not reached.” 

Juana Arriaga, a janitor employed by ABM, shared 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 work incredibly hard, yet I only make $12.15 per hour, and other janitors make as little as $11 per hour. At a time when some are getting richer and richer, those of us who are contracted to clean the buildings of some of the wealthiest corporations in the state shouldn’t have to struggle to get by. We have found out that winning $15 for all janitors would lead to tens of millions of dollars each year being pumped into communities across the Twin Cities. The fact that over 90% of janitors in our union people of color 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 Arriaga. “I have to work two jobs because of my pay. If we get a fair contract, families of janitors in Local 26 will see a better life, but it also can be a first steps towards really making our state a more equal and fair place.”

In negotiations, 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. Janitors have been negotiating since October with their employers. Their current three-year contract expired on Dec. 31st.

Minneapolis Regional Labor Fedoration President Chelsie Glaubitz and Teamsters Joint Council 32 Presdient Larry Yowsa joined janitors and shared how Twin Cities Unions will support, and in the cases where their contracts allow, sanction strikes if the janitors walk off the job, meaning that they would not cross any picket lines of buildings where janitors are striking. Also at the press conference were non-union janitors with CTUL, a local worker center. Retail janitors with CTUL work for contracted companies cleaning stores like Macy’s, Lunds & Byerly’s, Kohl’s, Sears, and are calling on cleaning companies to open sincere dialogue regarding fair wages and ending wage theft in the industry, and are prepared to walk out on strike on February 18th, 2016.

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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 375 property services workers nationally, and over 2 million including workers in healthcare and the public sector.

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Twin Cities Security Officers with SEIU Reach Tentative Agreement on Landmark New Contract, Win $15 for All Officers


The contract, covering 2,000 security officers, will see some Twin Cities workers receiving a 50% raise over the four year contract

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Minneapolis, Minn— Twin Cities security officers with SEIU Local 26 reached a tentative agreement for a ground-breaking new contract late Wednesday night. All current officers will achieve a minimum of $15 an hour wage and all future officers will be on a path to do the same. The contract also won more sick days, an improvement in healthcare cost for families and for the first time ever combines the Suburban and Downtown contracts to create more equity. The agreement would give substantial raises over the course of the contract for all of the over 2,000 security officers who protect buildings around the Twin Cities that house some of the most prominent and wealthy corporations in the country. Members will vote to ratify the contract in the next few weeks. The agreement comes as the janitors with SEIU Local 26 have voted to authorize a strike if a fair contract is not reached for the 4,000 janitors represented by the union.

20151010_James_Matias_rsJames Matias, a security officer and SEIU Local 26 Executive Board member from St. Paul who was on the bargaining committee, saw firsthand how officers in the union stood together to win this pioneering contract.

“Security officers in the Twin Cities fought hard for this contract, and are proud that we have won such an impressive victory for thousands of working families. Some security officers are currently at $10 an hour, so a jump to $15 by the end of the contract will result in a 50% pay increase, which will be a huge change,” said Matias, who lives in St. Paul with his wife and kids. “We fought to make sure that all workers in our union are given the chance to have the pay and benefits that ensure we can support our families. We won gains for all members, but we remained unified that everyone should have the basic dignity of fair pay for their hard work. In an area as wealthy as the Twin Cities, as we protect some of the most affluent businesses in the world, all working people should be able to provide for their families. This contract is a huge step in the right direction and we are now ready to stand shoulder to shoulder with janitors and other workers in their fight.”

The agreement comes just over a week from the strike deadline set by Twin Cities janitors who are also represented by SEIU Local 26. Unlike security officers, employers on the janitorial side have stalled, delayed and intimidated workers fighting for a fair agreement, which lead to the January 23rd unfair labor practice (ULP) strike authorization vote. The janitorial bargaining committee set a Feb 14th strike deadline for a fair contract. If there is not a fair contract by that date, the committee could call an ULP strike at any point.

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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.

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As Strike Deadline Looms, New Report Highlights Unsafe Workloads and Rising Productivity Demands Facing Twin Cities Janitors

The report, titled ‘Back Breaking Profits,’ highlights how decades of sub-contracting has caused the current situation that contributed to janitors voting to authorize strike

Minneapolis, Minn— Just weeks after Twin Cities janitors voted unanimously to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike, and the committee set a Feb. 14th deadline for the 4,000 janitors across the Metro to get a fair contract from their employers, a new report titled Back Breaking Profits is shining a light on one of the major issues highlighted by janitors who voted to authorize a strike. The new report lays clear how in the Twin Cities, as in the rest of the United States, the janitorial industry has undergone massive subcontracting in the last three decades, and the harm that has meant for workers, families and our communities.

297155586-Back-Breaking-ProfitsFrom the report:

In the last decade, janitorial services contractors have reduced the number of janitors, forcing the remaining workforce to cover more territory, leading to injuries and high stress for workers. The work is labor intensive, and fast-paced, demanding heavy lifting, repetitive motions, bending and crouching in unnatural positions. Building cleaning and maintenance occupations had the highest rate of days-away-from-work due to on-the-job injury or illness in Minnesota during 2014, nearly three times the average of all private sector occupations.

The cleaning industry is in crisis and janitors are facing the worst of it. Service Employees International Union Local 26 janitorial members have experienced drastic increases in workload; many say the changes began more than 30 years ago, when building owners started contracting out cleaning services rather than employing those workers directly.

The report includes personal testimonies from Twin Cities janitors who are members of the SEIU Local 26 and would be part of a strike if the contract hasn’t been reached by the Feb 14th deadline. Jessica Hansen has been a janitor since 1977, when a majority of workers like her were white, and has seen the changes as her job has gone from being considered a “good job,” with fair pay, free healthcare, pensions and more, to the current challenges facing workers. Currently over 90% of janitors in the Twin Cities with SEIU Local 26 are people of color. On average, janitors clean the equivalent per square feet of more than 20 houses every night, while some clean much more than that.

In the report, janitors like Elia, who cleans the Ameriprise tower in Minneapolis, share the real world implications of the rising workloads facing janitors and their families. Her testimony includes sharing that “four people got injured at the building I clean between April to December, and I was one of them. Because of my injury, I had to be on light duty for weeks, but the worst part is I’m in so much pain, I can’t play with my children,” she stated. There are countless stories like Elia’s, including many shared in the report, that highlight why increasing workload is such a major issue for janitors, and all working people, across Minnesota.

The report highlights steps being proposed by the janitor’s in negotiations to address this crisis, including:

  • Worker-centered enforcement of safety rules.  Walkthroughs and information for janitors to resolve issues at worksite where they know best. Janitors are experts in their field, they know what works, what doesn’t, what can be accomplished safely and when they’re being pushed to their limits. Workload walkthroughs with janitor, union steward and supervisor are a necessary tool to resolve issues at worksite.
  • Sustainable staffing levels. Establishing reasonable staffing levels, such as 40,000 square feet per night and 225 bathroom units, would ensure manageable workloads and prevent on-the-job injuries.
  • Data driven analysis of how to improve. Fielding an academic study from the University of Minnesota to evaluate ergonomic best practices and asses the effects of workload on janitors

Read the whole report HERE. Workers from the report and the report’s main author are available for comment.

Background: On January 23rd, janitors with SEIU Local 26 voted 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. Janitors have been negotiating since October with their employers. Their current three-year contract expired on Dec. 31st.

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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.

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Hamline University Adjuncts Reach Tentative Agreement on Historic First Union Contract

The agreement, called a victory for both faculty and students, will help promote stability through substantial wage increases and new professional development fund

St. Paul, Minn – Late Wednesday night, adjunct faculty at Hamline University reached a tentative agreement for their historic first contract with the University. After 10 years without a raise, adjuncts voted overwhelmingly to form their Union with SEIU Local 284 in June of 2014, and have been negotiating their first contract with the University for over a year. The adjunct faculty on the bargaining team praised the contract as a strong step forward to improving Hamline for adjuncts, students and the whole Hamline community.

Mark Felton, a Hamline adjunct in the business school and member of the bargaining team, highlighted how the contract is a “win-win” for everyone at Hamline.

“Teaching is my passion, which is why I joined the fight to win this first contract that makes Hamline stronger for both adjunct faculty and our students,” said Felton, who has taught at various Higher Education institutions in Minnesota for over 10 years. “Increasing wages after all these years, establishing a professional development fund and crafting a system where adjuncts have advance notice of when we will teach courses will all help to create an environment where we have the capacity to do what we love to do, which is spend time with and teach our students. We always believed we could reach an agreement that moves everyone forward, and we are proud that we came together and made this contract a reality.”

Della Zurick, a Hamline adjunct who teaches political theory and is a member of the bargaining team, shared that her love of her students got her involved in the campaign and why their support helped to make the contract a reality.

“I teach my students about standing up for their convictions, and feel strongly that this contract does just that for Hamline adjuncts who have fought so hard for what is best for both faculty and students,” said Zurick. “I feel called to teach, and find great joy in engaging with my Hamline students. It has been amazing to see and hear the support they have given us throughout my time on the campaign.  I believe this contract will help to strengthen that experience for all involved at Hamline. When adjuncts aren’t having to run from one job to the next, scrambling to fit together various pieces, it gives us more time to actually teach our students.”

Hamline_University_Old_Main_rsHamline students have been strong supporters of the adjuncts during the campaign for a first contract. Kyle McGuinn, a first year MFA student at Hamline, shared why he worked to support adjuncts and why he was excited for this first contract.

“This agreement is a great step forward for both Hamline students and faculty. Students supported the adjuncts bargaining for a fair first contract because we know that if our teachers are paid fairly and given the support they need, they will have more time to invest in our education,” said McGuinn. “I’m proud that adjuncts stood up for a better future for higher education, and proud that the student body showed our support for the teachers that make our education possible. This is a big win for all of Hamline.”

Highlights of the tentative agreement include:

  • Raises for all adjunct faculty. A majority will receive a 15% increase in year 1 and base pay will increase by 20% by the 2017-2018 fiscal year.
  • Additional compensation for adjuncts with their terminal degree and length of service will increase base pay in year 1 by 25% and by 30% in fiscal year 2017-2018.
  • A professional development fund will be established.
  • Adjunct faculty will receive much earlier notice of courses they will teach, and will be compensated for work if there is a last minute cancellation. Additionally, they will have the first right of refusal to teach a course they design or be compensated for the curriculum.
  • Establishment of a Union/University Collaboration Committee (otherwise known as a Labor Management Committee)

Adjunct faculty in the bargaining unit will vote in early 2016 on ratification of the agreement, which would then go into effect for the Spring semester.

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Praise Dismissal of Anti-Union Lawsuit

St. Paul, Minn — Today the 8th Circuit U.S Court of Appeals upheld the lower court ruling in the case of Greene vs. Dayton, reiterating the right of home care workers in Minnesota to continue their democratically elected Union.

Sumer Spika, a mother from St. Paul who works in home care and is a Vice President of SEIU Healthcare Minnesota, released the following statement:

“Today’s news of the dismissal of the lawsuit from extremists intent on destroying our Union is good news for home care clients and workers in Minnesota. We are very excited to put this particular lawsuit behind us and continue our work to improve our industry for thousands of families across Minnesota. But we know there are other legal attacks still being made against our right to organize improved standards for home care workers and clients, including in the Bierman v. Dayton case, and we will not let any court challenge stop us from moving forward.

“I am proud of the gains we made in our first contract, winning an $11 pay floor, paid time off for the first time, a training fund and more, but both workers and consumers in Minnesota still deserve much more than we are currently receiving. We are part of the national Fight for $15 because we know that our industry needs pay and benefits that will ensure that care work is treated as a career, not just a temp job, so the people we serve are given the consistent care that they need. Our work, done predominantly by women and people of color, has been undervalued for far too long. With our union, we are beginning to fight back and ensure that workers and the people we serve have a voice, and we won’t let any lawsuit stop us. We are glad that this particular lawsuit is behind us as we move forward in our work to improve the lives of thousands of families across our state.”

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SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 35,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota.

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Statement from SEIU Executive Director Brian Elliott On Appointment to Minneapolis Workplace Regulations Partnership


Minneapolis, MN 
- Today, the Minneapolis City Council appointed Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Minnesota State Council Executive Director Brian Elliott as one of the 15 members of the City’s Workplace Regulations Partnership to study and propose solutions to address the lack of earned sick and safe time by many workers in the City. Below is Elliott’s statement on the appointment: (more…)

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In Sweeping Ruling, North Memorial Ordered to Bring Back Fired Worker And Provide Back Pay

Ruling comes after June 2014 firing for Union activity

St. Paul, MN – An Administrative Law Judge has ruled in favor of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota and Minnesota Nurses Association for joint Unfair Labor Practices the two unions filed against North Memorial Medical Center.  The ruling, on behalf of the National Labor Relations Board, found the Robbinsdale hospital unlawfully infringed on protected concerted activity by union members and union representatives.

As part of the sweeping ruling, North Memorial was ordered to reinstate Melvin Anderson, a SEIU Healthcare Minnesota Executive Board member and worker in the Sterile Processing Unit at North Memorial, who was fired after a June 24, 2014 informational picket outside of the hospital. As part of the ruling, Anderson will be “made whole” by receiving back pay for all of his time lost over the last year.

SEIU Healthcare Minnesota President Jamie Gulley praised the ruling and commended Anderson for not giving up in the fight for safe patient standards in hospitals across the state.

“I am incredibly happy that the Administrative Law Judge corrected the wrong that North Memorial committed by firing Melvin for Union activity. By giving him his job back and paying back pay for the time they took from him, this ruling shows that workers can stand up for what is right for patients and workers and not have to fear for their job,” said Gulley. “Melvin, and all of the members of SEIU and MNA who continue to stand up for patient safety, should take pride that this ruling only reinforces their fight.”

As part of the extensive ruling (full list of the orders for North Memorial are at the bottom), the judge found that Union staff are entitled to have conversations in public areas and may not be intimidated or surveilled to prevent them from speaking to members. In addition, it states that union organizers cannot be banned from the property if they are not being “disruptive” nor can union members or representatives be prevented from wearing union shirts.

Per the judge’s order, North Memorial must also post the fact that they have been found to have committed these unfair labor practices and that they will halt them immediately.

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 SEIU Healthcare Minnesota unites more than 42,000 healthcare and long-term care workers in hospitals, clinics, nursing homes, and home care throughout the state of Minnesota. SEIU represents more than 60,000 members across Minnesota and is a powerful voice working to improve the lives of all Minnesotans.

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Minnesota Home Care Workers Celebrate First Day of Historic Union Contract

Contract wins include paid time off, higher wage floor, workplace protections, training fund and more for 27,000 workers represented

St. Paul, MN - After years of advocacy by home care workers and the people they support, today marks the first day of the historic home care union contract. After voting last year to form their union and join Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Healthcare Minnesota, home care workers reached an agreement with the state in January on this first contract for the 27,000 workers in the new bargaining unit. The agreement was ratified by union members and by the Minnesota Legislature as part of the Health and Human Services (HHS) omnibus budget bill.  (more…)

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Home Care Workers Celebrate Legislative Passage of Historic First Contract

Contract will go into effect on July 1st for 27,000 home care workers across the state, improving the lives of workers and the people they serve

St. Paul, MN – With the Governor’s signing of the Omnibus Health and Human Services bill today, leaders from SEIU Healthcare Minnesota celebrated the legislative passage of their historic first home care contract. The contract, the first new union contract with the state of Minnesota in decades, had bipartisan support in the Legislature, including stand-alone bill authors Sandy Pappas (SF1274), Rod Hamilton (HF2035), and Denny McNamara (HF1298). The contract will go into effect on July 1st and covers approximately 27,000 home care workers across the state. Key victories in the contract include workers receiving a paid time off benefit for the first time (five days of paid time off for full-time workers), raising the pay floor from $9 to $11 by 2016, a grievance and arbitration procedure to address wage theft, and a training fund to improve the quality of care they provide to people with disabilities and seniors. Workers championed the contract as a great step forward for both themselves and the people they serve.  (more…)

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SEIU Responds to Wage Proposal At MSP Airport

In response to the Metropolitan Airports Commission administrators proposing to raise wages for airport workers to $1 above the state’s minimum wage, SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo issued the following statement: (more…)

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