—Thousands of Janitors at Marquee Office Buildings & MBTA Could Walk Off the Job–
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Eugenio H. Villasante 646-285-1087
Boston, MA—After a spirited meeting at the Back Bay Events Center, hundreds of janitors who maintain nearly 2,000 office buildings in the Greater Boston campus voted to authorize their union’s bargaining committee to call a strike if they don’t reach an agreement with the Maintenance Contractors Association New England by September 30. 32BJ SEIU and the cleaning contractors still remain far apart on any new agreement involving wages and workload issues.
“We don’t take the possibility of a strike lightly but the workers who make Boston and New England strong are ready to do what it takes to protect their families,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU.
Negotiations for a new, multi-year contract began last August between 32BJ SEIU, the largest property service union in the country and a consortium of the largest contractors in the industry. Major issues include fair wage increases to keep up with the rising cost of living and protections against unreasonable workloads.
The janitors and security officers who clean, maintain and protect nearly 2,000 buildings across the Boston region are currently bargaining their contracts. Over 13,000 janitors are covered under one of the largest union contracts in New England.
These workers clean, maintain and protect iconic office buildings in Boston including the John Hancock, Prudential Tower, Vertex and Biogen buildings, and give support to pharmaceutical companies, finance, tech, the MBTA, the State House and higher education institutions – all key pillars of the Massachusetts economy. The mostly immigrant workforce has a long history of fighting for good jobs in the area.
With a strong commercial real estate industry enjoying low vacancy rates and sky-high rents, cleaners at the bargaining table are calling for a new contract that expands opportunities for full-time employment and ensures raises that keep up with the cost of living in one of the most expensive metro areas in the country.
“We are proud of the work we do to keep Boston running,” said Santiago Brito, who cleans in the Financial District. “It shouldn’t be a luxury when you work full-time to be able to pay rent and bills, or help send your kids to college.”
Four years ago when cleaners negotiated their last contract, the country was in a recession. Since that time, vacancy rates in Boston’s office buildings have dropped almost back to their pre-recession levels while rents have climbed even higher than they were before the recession.
The janitors’ proposals also include expanding employer-paid health care to family members for full-time workers and a wage increase that will keep up with the rising cost of supporting their families. With a market that is still primarily part-time the janitors are demanding a path to much needed full-time jobs. Far too often employers deliberately part-time what could be decent jobs to avoid their responsibility of paying health care for their workers. When this happens, workers either lose income or take on multiple part-time jobs and spend less time with their families and in their communities. By shirking their obligations to contribute to their workers’ health care, employers also pass hundreds of millions of dollars onto taxpayers through Medicaid spending and other social support services.
Massachusetts and the Greater Boston area are thriving. Multinational pharmaceutical companies continue to expand, world-class higher education institutions keep attracting top students, and consolidated cutting-edge tech companies show the world that Massachusetts is the place to invest. Boston, a city of wealth and innovation – a boomtown – is also the most unequal city in America. People in the top 5 percent make 18 times as much as households in the bottom 20 percent. The income gap continues to grow in Boston, making it the most unequal city in America. And without good paying union jobs the gap will become as chasm.
“The promise of America is for everyone, including the thousands of men and women who clean and maintain office buildings and college campuses in Massachusetts. We are mothers and fathers, sisters and brothers; we are neighbors and community members. Many of us are immigrants from around the world and the vast majority of us live and work in urban centers. We are building America and driving the economies of its cities. Hard working Americans like us deserve to make more than a decent living – we deserve a decent life,” said Roxana Rivera.
The current commercial cleaning contract expires on September 30.
With 155,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 18,000 in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the country.