New Contract with Strong Raises, Employer-Paid Family Healthcare, More Full-Time Work
FOR MORE INFORMATION: Eugenio H. Villasante 646-285-1087
Boston, MA – Avoiding what would have been one of the largest strikes in recent memory, the 13,000 janitors who clean and maintain thousands of office buildings in the Greater Boston area secured a tentative, 4-year agreement with the Maintenance Contractors of New England just hours before contract expiration. The deal, subject to ratification by the members, provides a 12% increase in wages over the life of the contract and expands employer-paid healthcare to family members of full-time employees. Metro Boston janitors will make $20 an hour by the end of the contract. The agreement also moves the needle on full-time work in what is still a predominantly part-time industry and includes a new legal assistance benefit for all members.
“This is the contract we need to support our families and communities,” said bargaining committee member Lucy Gonzalez, who cleans terminals at Logan Airport. “I feel relieved that with this contract I will be able to keep up with the rising cost of living and provide quality healthcare to my children. I know thousands of other union members will be doing the same, all of us are supporting our communities and building our local economy.”
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. Just last Saturday, the membership voted to authorize the 32BJ bargaining committee to call a strike if they couldn’t come to a fair deal with the contractors.
“This agreement honors the valuable contributions of the hardworking men and women who make Greater Boston strong,” said Roxana Rivera, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU. “With this contract we are moving forward together to make our city and the whole Commonwealth work for everyone.”
More than 130,000 SEIU janitors across the nation have negotiated contracts in over 2015 and 2016 to raise the standards of their industry. More than 75,000 of them from Boston to Virginia are members of 32BJ SEIU.
These workers clean iconic office buildings in Boston including the John Hancock, Prudential Tower, Vertex and Biogen, State Street, 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 included 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 demanded 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. And without good paying union jobs the gap will become a chasm.
“The promise of America is for everyone, including the thousands of men and women who clean 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 majorities 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.
With more than 155,000 members in 11 states, including 18,000 in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire, SEIU 32BJ is the largest property services union in the country.