-Delaware cleaners need $15 an hour to provide for their families-
Wilmington, De – Bargaining opened Tuesday afternoon for nearly 800 32BJ SEIU janitors who clean offices in downtown Wilmington and New Castle County. The workers are determined to negotiate a strong four-year agreement with their employers—representatives of commercial cleaning contractors.
The majority part-time work force has been fighting over the years to turn these previously low-wage jobs into family-sustaining ones. Commercial office cleaners in Delaware first organized and joined the union nine years ago. Prior to that, workers saw few if any wage increases and didn’t have a voice on the job. Since that time, they have won wage increases and other benefits.
Currently, more than 30% of Wilmington residents earn an income below the poverty level, which is much higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 12.3%. These hardworking cleaners live in these hard hit communities, which are often plagued by gun violence. According to the Bureau of Justice Statistics, people who live below the poverty line were more likely to be the victims of a crime involving a gun than to those who lived in higher income households.
“I enjoy my job, but $15 an hour will make things easier on my family and me. Right now, in addition to being a cleaner, I work odd jobs; but it’s still not enough. I work to keep my family safe and secure, but I have to deal with the stress of not having enough to provide for them. While I work part-time, I have full-time bills and other obligations. An increase will allow me to not only help my family but also better my community,” said Clarence Berry, a Wilmington cleaner.
According to MIT, a living wage of $26.99 an hour is needed for one adult supporting one child in New Castle County. Current wages for Delaware commercial cleaners is $12.50 an hour.
“These hardworking men and women clean for the some of the wealthiest businesses in the world. They keep these corporations running. These cleaners want to be able to do their jobs and return home and be able to provide for themselves and their families,” said Daisy Cruz, Mid-Atlantic District Leader.
Last month, the cleaners held a spirited rally for $15 an hour on one of the coldest days of the winter in Rodney Square along with State Senator Darius Brown and State Reps Gerald Brady and John Kowalko. The legislatures vow to support the workers in their fight for $15.
Delaware 32BJ SEIU commercial office cleaners work at more than 80 office buildings and facilities throughout Wilmington and New Castle County, including the PNC Bank Center, Bank of America, Chase Bank, and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Corporate Plaza.
The current agreement expires at 11:59 p.m. on January 31.
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania & Delaware, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.