Massive strike averted as janitors, employers came to an agreement on Dec. 18.
NEWARK, N.J. – On Saturday, thousands of 32BJ SEIU janitors voted to ratify a four-year contract that covers 7,000 workers who clean and maintain 500 commercial office buildings, schools, malls and transit centers in the state of New Jersey.
The new four-year contract includes up to $3.80 in wage increases that will have some workers in the state starting at $18 by 2023. The contract maintains quality family health insurance, legal and career training benefits. It also improves retirement benefits for many workers, expands paid sick leave, creates notable protections against sexual harassment and creates a statewide labor management committee to discuss the physically demanding conditions of working as a janitor.
For the first time, the contract also includes comprehensive protections against sexual harassment, requiring employers to provide and post a sexual harassment policy in the workplace, protecting workers against harassment by third parties and laying out a process for complaint follow up and discipline of perpetrators.
Mary Francis Cuadrado, a member of 32BJ SEIU’s bargaining committee and cleaner at Celgene and Merck, who was present at the vote said, “we just voted to ratify this contract, which means absolutely everything to us and our families. For me, as a single mom raising kids, I can count on a raise every year, to keep up with inflation and quality health insurance that we can afford. This is more than a contract; it is an opportunity. This is the best gift for the holidays.”
“This contract will help New Jersey communities everywhere benefit from prosperity of the booming real estate market. Seven thousand New Jerseyans just took a giant step towards joining the middle class,” said Kevin Brown, 32BJ SEIU Vice President and New Jersey State Director.
The 32BJ SEIU bargaining committee and employers tentatively settled the contract late in the evening on Dec. 18, a day after thousands of NJ cleaners held a massive march and strike authorization vote. The settlement and today’s ratification averts the strike.
The workers began contract negations with the cleaning contracting companies on Oct. 17. Over the last three months, workers have waged an aggressive campaign that included a massive rally and march on Labor Day, a strike vote and march through Newark and countless building actions. The cleaners saw immense support from numerous elected officials and allies including Governor Murphy, Mayor Baraka, Mayor Fulop, members of Newark and Jersey City Councils, Senator Cryan, Assemblywoman Quijano, Sue Altman of the Working Families Alliance, Make the Road New Jersey, faith leaders throughout the state and the general public.
Elected officials who stood with 32BJ janitors continue to show their support. “Today is a great day for New Jersey and the 7,000 commercial cleaners at SEIU 32BJ who just settled a new four-year contract,” said New Jersey Governor Murphy. “This contract is much bigger than the office cleaners who will make the wages and benefits it ensures. This is about the strength of New Jersey’s economy. Today, 32BJ ensured that communities across our state will have what they need, not only to survive, but to thrive.”
“Great news from 32BJ. NJ cleaners just reached a new contract that will build stability & strength in communities across the state! I’m so proud to have supported their campaign. We succeed when every worker— Black, brown & white— is paid enough to care for his or her family,” wrote Senator Joe Cryan in a tweet.
“I am pleased to hear that New Jersey’s janitors have reached a strong contract that will protect their health insurance and pensions while offering the important raises that help them support families in the state. I was ready to stand with the cleaners, if a strike was necessary, and I am proud to stand with them in celebration today,” said Assemblywoman Annette Quijano.
“I congratulate the janitors who worked hard to win this amazing contract,” Assemblywoman Britnee N. Timberlake said. “Janitors are the most important people in a building. They ensure the building runs smoothly, are often the people who know everyone, and provide clean and sanitary conditions that stop viruses and bacteria from spreading. As the cost of living rises, it has become increasingly harder for working people to make ends meet, but this gives workers a chance. They have a chance to raise their voice and we have to lift them up in support. Like every hardworking person, janitors deserve to be paid enough to create a bright future for their families.”
“I’m so proud to have stood alongside the janitors in this fight and I’m proud that New Jersey will continue to be a state where our commercial industry provides dignity, fair wages and benefits to the workers who keep our buildings clean and running daily,” said Jersey City Council President Rolando Lavarro.
“I am thrilled to see that custodial workers throughout our state have settled on a strong, fair contract that offers needed raises and essential healthcare protections. The ability to strike and collectively bargain is the bedrock of the American labor movement, and I would like to praise the hardworking men and women of SEIU and the participating contractors for strengthening that process with this agreement,” said the Mayor of Parsippany Michael Soriano.
“I congratulate 32BJ SEIU members for winning a strong union contract that raises standards across the board. I stand with 32BJ because their contracts create positive change that have benefited both workers and businesses alike. This is what our community needs,” said Newark City Councilmember Anibal Ramos.
With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, including 13,000 in New Jersey, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.
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