Union cleaners in Hartford, New Haven & Stamford determined to win fair contracts by Dec. 31
HARTFORD, CT – Today over 1,000 janitors in Hartford, Stamford and New Haven voted unanimously at separate meetings to authorize a strike if no agreement can be reached in bargaining sessions between cleaning contractors and the janitors’ union, 32BJ SEIU. The largest property service union in the nation, 32BJ this fall has been negotiating commercial cleaning contracts across the East Coast, covering some 75,000 cleaners between Hartford and Washington, D.C.
“Because of your unity and determination, there’s no question that we will win a good contract. It’s only a question of when we win,” said 32BJ President Kyle Bragg, who traveled from New York to speak at the Hartford and Stamford gatherings. “Do we win without a fight, or do we win with a fight? That’s now the contractors’ choice.”
Over 4,000 janitors are covered in Connecticut by two agreements between 32BJ and employer groups representing dozens of cleaning contracting companies. One agreement covers 3,000 building cleaners in Fairfield County and the lower Hudson Valley, New York; the other covers some 2,400 cleaners across the rest of Connecticut, with the majority of the buildings in New Haven and Hartford counties. Taken together, the contracts cover some 4,000 janitors who clean over 80% of the large commercial buildings across the state. The properties include insurance headquarters, malls, factories, universities, and downtown office towers.
Contract negotiations began on the Fairfield-Hudson Valley contract on October 31 and on the Hartford-New Haven contract on November 13. With less than three weeks before both contracts expire at midnight on December 31, the strike authorization allows the bargaining committee to act quickly in the event that the current negotiations over wages, benefits and working conditions cannot be satisfactorily resolved.
“If you vote to approve the strike, we will move forward with our negotiations,” said Anna Karwowski, a cleaner at the UConn Health Center and member of the bargaining committee, before the strike vote in Hartford this morning. “If we don’t come to an agreement with our bosses, we must know that every single one of you here is ready to go on the street and go on strike on January 1. Are you ready to fight?”
Almost 500 janitors responded with a hearty yes, and within minutes, voted unanimously to authorize the calling of a strike if necessary, a scene repeated at a smaller concurrent meeting in New Haven, and later that afternoon at a meeting of another 500 janitors in Stamford.
“The success of our bargaining is due solely to your power, not my power,” said Juan Hernandez, Vice-President of 32BJ SEIU and leader of the union in Connecticut. “I am honored to serve you and to serve with this bargaining committee in these negotiations. I am confident that together we will succeed either at the table or in the streets.”
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states and Washington DC, including 4,500 members in Connecticut, 32BJ is the largest building service workers union in the country