New Haven, CT – New Haven area office cleaners have ratified a new contract that averted a strike which potentially could have affected about two dozen corporate and government buildings in the city in addition to 125 buildings in the Hartford area. Members voted unanimously over the weekend to approve an agreement that preserves healthcare coverage and raises wages over the four years by 13 percent. A separate contract for Hartford members that raised their wages 10 percent over four years was ratified on January 7.
“This is a fair agreement with modest wage increases that will help the cleaners in New Haven. Our members are working two and three jobs to try and keep their heads above water in one of the most expensive regions in the country,” said Kurt Westby, Connecticut State Director for 32BJ SEIU and chief negotiator for the union on this contract. “These hard-working men and women have stood up for the wages they need to support their families and our economy.”
32BJ represents a total of 2,000 building cleaners in the New Haven and Hartford areas. They clean nearly 150 buildings including some of Connecticut’s most important corporate centers and landmark buildings such as City Hall, Long Wharf Maritime Center, and One Century Tower and the State Capitol, Travelers’ Tower and Wesleyan University in Hartford.
Talks between the union and the Hartford Area Cleaning Contractors Association, which represents cleaning companies in both New Haven and Hartford, had begun in mid-November and concluded on the night of December 28th, barely three days before expiration. A breakthrough came after several leading elected officials, including New Haven Mayor John DeStefano, urged both sides to find common ground and reach an agreement that was fair to workers.
“I was proud to stand with our hardworking building cleaners in their struggle for decent wages and benefits,” New Haven Mayor John DeStefano said. “I added my voice because as elected officials, we must show both labor and management that we expect a fair, mutual settlement that works for both sides. This contract does that.”
Other elected officials who had taken a public stand in support of the workers during the course of negotiations included Governor Dannel Malloy, Senator Richard Blumenthal, Hartford Mayor Pedro Segarra, and U.S. Representatives Rosa DeLauro and John Larson, State Senator John Fonfara of Hartford, New Britain Mayor Tim O’Brien, and Hartford City Council Members Larry Deutsch, Luis Cotto and Cynthia Jennings.
With more than 120,000 members in eight states and Washington, D.C., including 4,500 in Connecticut, 32BJ SEIU is the largest union of property service workers in the country.