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Philadelphia – More than 200 property service workers: commercial cleaners, building engineers, and maintenance mechanics rallied in Center City this afternoon calling for a fair contract. Negotiations opened today for the workers – members of 32BJ SEIU – and the Building Operators Labor Relations (BOLR) which represents building owners and contractors.
The 2,800 workers are employed in 168 office buildings across the city. They work in many of the city’s most prominent locations: Philadelphia City Hall, the Comcast Center, and Wells Fargo Plaza.
Four years ago the country was in a recession. Since that time, the real estate market is booming. The Central Business District (CBD) is thriving with an occupancy rate of 86.7% with the more prominent locations maintaining 95.2% occupancy rate.
“The real estate market in Philadelphia is booming. Across the city’s skyline, you see commercial development. All too often that wealth doesn’t trickle down to the hardworking men and women who help maintain those buildings and keep the tenants happy,” said Daisy Cruz, Mid-Atlantic District Leader 32BJ SEIU. “Our members want to be able to continue providing for their families and their communities.”
Under the current contract, commercial workers earn from $14.94 to $17.54 per hour. Over the years, commercial workers have been helping to raise the middle class with increases in wages that are helping to lift them out of poverty.
“No one should have to work two and three jobs just to make ends meet,” said Arthella Harley, a commercial office cleaner. “For the past 30 years janitors across the country have been working to build this industry, make these good jobs and solidify the middle class.”
Among the benefits 32BJ representatives are seeking are an increase in family-sustaining wages and the continuance of comprehensive health benefits. Under the BOLR contract, all full-time workers receive employer-paid health benefits that include hospitalization, physician visits, prescription plan, dental, vision and death benefits. The current contract between 32BJ and BOLR expires 11:59 a.m. on October 15.
For the next 18 months, close to 135,000 SEIU janitors across the nation will be negotiating contracts, 75,000 are 32BJ SEIU members along the East Coast.
With 145,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.