Seiu janitors achieve big wage, benefit gains - Les agents d'entretien dégagent des plus grosses paies, de meilleurs avantages

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Most of the 151,000 janitors in SEIU have won wages that are far above the national average for janitorial employ- ees. In 2008, a nonunion janitor was paid about $412 per week. By contrast, SEIU …

Most of the 151,000 janitors in SEIU have won wages that are far above the national average for janitorial employ- ees. In 2008, a nonunion janitor was paid about $412 per week. By contrast, SEIU janitors earned as much as $920 per week in New York City, $592 per week in Chicago, $519 in Minneapolis, and $527 in Los Angeles.

La plupart des 151 000 agents d'entretien membres de SEIU ont gagné des salaires qui s'élèvent largement au-dessus de la moyenne nationale pour les agents d'entretien. En 2008, un agent d'entretien gagnait $412 par semaine. Les agents d'entretien membres de SEIU gagnaient eux $920 par semaine à New York, $592 à Chicago, $519 à Minneapolis, et $527 à Los Angeles.

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  • 1. SEIU Janitors Achieve Big Wage, Bene t Gains e victory of the Houston janitors was one piece in a that “go rst” in respecting workers’ right to form unionsmosaic of success for their movement. Some 40,000 janitors aren’t underbid and driven out of business before their com-have chosen to unite in SEIU since 1996. As of 2010, about petitors agree to recognize the union.44 percent of all janitors in 25 of the 30 largest commercial e SEIU strategy has brought big wins for janitors.o ce markets in the United States were SEIU members. Local 32BJ, led by Mike Fishman, began in 2001 to reach Critics of SEIU, including right-wing talk show hosts out to unite thousands of nonunion janitors in the marketsand even some on the left, argue that the union’s strong fo- between New York City and Washington, D.C. e unioncus on organizing comes at the expense of members who used the hallmark tactics of SEIU janitorial organizing—are shortchanged at the bargaining table. e actual record multiday strikes, outreach to the religious community, rallieseasily refutes such claims. at worksites and corporate headquarters, and lea eting. By Most of the 151,000 janitors in SEIU have won wages 2003, 47 contractors in New Jersey signed the master col-that are far above the national average for janitorial employ- lective bargaining agreement. Two years later, nearly 5,000ees. In 2008, a nonunion janitor was paid about $412 per New Jersey janitors had joined SEIU and won a 24 percentweek. By contrast, SEIU janitors earned as much as $920 wage increase as well as improved healthcare coverage.per week in New York City, $592 per week in Chicago, $519 Similar successes occurred in the Philadelphia suburbsin Minneapolis, and $527 in Los Angeles. where workers who were paid as little as $6.50 an hour got And 21 of SEIU’s collective bargaining agreements strong support from SEIU janitors in central Philadelphiacovering janitors include family healthcare coverage and an- who worked for many of the same contractors. e sub-other 10 include individual healthcare coverage. urban janitors won wage gains of up to 60 percent and Key to winning good contracts for janitors has been employer-sponsored health coverage for the rst time afterSEIU’s e ort to engage the real decision-makers—the build- gaining union recognition in 2006.ing owners—in discussions about using responsible contrac- Gains also occurred in the Washington, D.C., suburbstors that respect workers’ right to form unions and negoti- and Baltimore where primarily Latino and African-Ameri-ate good contracts. e union has won recognition often can o ce cleaners used many of the same tactics downtownfrom employers through majority sign-up, rather than via D.C. janitors had used years earlier to win a rst contract.elections that unfairly favor companies that delay the pro- By the end of 2009, nearly 3,000 commercial o ce jani-cess; foment high turnover; and harass, intimidate, and re tors in northern Virginia united in SEIU. e union builtunion supporters. on the successes of the rekindled immigrant rights move- In many cases, the union has won agreements from con- ment to engage poverty-wage cleaners in a series of strikestractors to take part in marketwide master contract negotia- in late 2007. Under the resulting master contract, north-tions once a critical mass (often between 50 percent and 60 ern Virginia cleaners won nearly 30 percent more in wages,percent) of all similar contractors in the market agreed to do guaranteed paid sick leave and vacations, and employer-paidthe same. Such “trigger agreements” mean that contractors health bene ts.
  • 2. e success of Local 32BJ in organizing and winning had become SEIU members and won master contracts thatgood contracts on the East Coast had parallels elsewhere. raised wages, provided a ordable health insurance, beganIn Boston, 2,000 janitors at 97 buildings went on strike the transition to full-time work, and extended the freedomfor three weeks in 2002 to win better wages for all 11,000 to choose a union through majority sign-up to cleaners atBoston-area janitors. e settlement resulted in 30 percent other sites in the three cities.wage increases, extension of health insurance, equal pay “I’m proud of what we have accomplished,” said Cin-for 1,000 part-time workers, and the addition of two paid cinnati janitor Lauressie “Dee Dee” Tillman of the rst city-sick days. wide union contract won by workers like her. “Not just for In Chicago, SEIU’s Tom Balano and other leaders us and our families, but for all of the workers in this city whohelped win a strike of suburban Chicago janitors who gained are paid so little.”full, employer-paid health insurance. at success spurred Chapter 3 describes the struggle of Los Angeles-areaa wave of organizing by nonunion janitors in the Chicago janitors to regain strength lost during a decline in the latesuburbs to unite with their fellow cleaners in SEIU Local 1980s. Another major strike occurred in Los Angeles in1. Within two years of the strike, the proportion of all Chi- 2000 when the janitors there—largely immigrants andcago suburban janitors who belong to SEIU had increased to women—won a historic victory after massive marches andmore than 80 percent from less than 60 percent. civil disobedience aimed at contractors that refused to pay SEIU’s Chicago janitors who worked at a rm called livable wages. Workers at Local 1877 gained wage increasesLakeside used their leverage to back janitors in Columbus, of more than 25 percent along with provisions requiring em-Ohio, who worked for the same company. e Chicago ployers to absorb all health insurance cost increases.janitors honored picket lines set up by the Columbus jani- Gains for L.A. janitors led later to nearly 3,000 Orangetors and management responded by ring two dozen of the County janitors—many working for the same contractorsChicago workers. An intensive three-week campaign result- SEIU members had struck in Los Angeles—joining SEIUed in Lakeside agreeing and, within a year, win-to both a majority sign- JANITORS’ WEEKLY WAGES, 2008 ning wage increases ofup process for the Co- $1.20 an hour as welllumbus janitors to join as family healthcareSEIU and also to return coverage.171the red Chicago work- Barbara Shulmaners to their jobs. of the SEIU Research By early 2008, Department provided or-commercial janitors ganizing and bargainingin Columbus, Cincin- data for this and othernati, and Indianapolis boxes in this book.