Negotiations continue on contract covering 12,000 janitors at 1,500 properties from Merrimack Valley to Rhode Island, including 90 percent of commercial buildings in Greater Boston
Four janitors file charges with federal government against employers for intimidation and interference
Media may download a full set of photos and videos from Friday’s building-rallies here
WHO: Commercial building cleaners and their supporters, carrying signs and wearing union colors.
WHAT: March and rally in Kendall Square to demand a fair contract by Wednesday at midnight.
WHEN: 3:30 PM, Tuesday, November 14, 2023
WHERE: Outside Kendal/MIT red line T station
near 300 Main Street
Cambridge MA 02142
BOSTON — Commercial building cleaners from the Merrimack Valley to the suburbs of Providence are ready to go on strike if their representatives in Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union cannot reach a fair agreement with employers represented by the Maintenance Contractors of New England by midnight Wednesday.
To demonstrate their solidarity–and to protest the intimidation alleged in complaints filed with the federal government by four union members—dozens of cleaners will rally at 3:30 PM on Tuesday outside the Kendall/MIT stop, followed by a march near many of the vital Cambridge biotech companies they keep running.
Cleaners could walk off the job any time after midnight on Wednesday, November 15, when the current contract expires for over 12,000 union members who clean at upwards of 90 percent of the commercial buildings in Greater Boston, as well as in the Merrimack Valley, Worcester, Providence, and elsewhere. A strike could affect over 1,500 buildings in the area, including almost all of the major office buildings downtown, such as 200 Clarendon (Hancock Tower), the Prudential Center, and One Congress Street; buildings housing major Cambridge biotech companies like Takeda, Novartis, Biogen and Pfizer; the campus of Northeastern University; and many other sites. Members of 32BJ under this major contract also clean properties from the MBTA train stations to the Berkeley College of Music.
This past Friday, janitors held a string of rallies at major properties they clean throughout Boston and Cambridge to bring their message home to employers, who have barely budged in contract talks now happening at the union’s office at 26 West Street in downtown Boston. Around 5 PM, cleaners gathered in Boston with Boston City Council President Ed Flynn and City Councilor Sharon Durkin at 100 Causeway Street near the TD Garden, and with Boston City Counselors Julia Mejia at 1 Federal Street and Ruthzee Louijeune at the Prudential Center. In Cambridge, they stood with Cambridge Mayor Sumbul Siddiqui at One Main Street and with Cambridge City Councilors Jivan Sobrinho-Wheeler (in his first act as a City Councilor elect) and Marc McGovern outside Takeda.
At the rallies, workers handed out leaflets with copies of resolution unanimously passed by the Boston City Council supporting the union members’ effort to negotiate a fair agreement, and a video of Boston Mayor Michelle Wu’s support. “32BJ is calling for a contract that guarantees wages that keep up with the cost of living and provides health insurance,” Mayor Wu says in the video. “These are basic securities that all workers deserve – especially those who keep us safe and healthy.”
“We are asking our employers to honor our sacrifice during COVID and acknowledge the difficulties we face with inflation and lack of full-time work,” said Ana Gonzalez, a Park Plaza office cleaner and 32BJ bargaining committee member. “I have worked as a building cleaner for 23 years and have never had a full-time position, so I have to get my health insurance through the state. During the pandemic, every cleaner in my building got sick at some point. While so many others could safely work from home, we still had to come out to ensure buildings we clean were sanitized.”
“We are determined to win a contract that recognizes the sacrifices that janitors have made over these past four years, and that honors their continued contribution,” said Roxana Rivera, 32BJ SEIU Assistant to the President and the head of the union in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. “The majority of our members are immigrants and/or people-of-color, and they suffered disproportionate losses during the pandemic. Across 32BJ’s districts, over 200 janitors died from COVID. Not only do they need and deserves an increase in pay that can keep ahead of inflation, but many who struggle with part-time jobs also need the chance to have full-time work, so they can access employer-funded medical benefits. They are ready to strike if the contactors do not agree to a fair contract by midnight on Wednesday.”
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states and Washington DC, including 20,000 members in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, 32BJ is the largest building service workers union in the country.