New York – A little more than a week before their contract was set to expire, a committee representing more than 22,000 commercial cleaners in New York came to a tentative agreement for a new four year contract on Friday afternoon, that gives janitors strong wage increases and secures benefits including 100% employer-paid health care, in addition to increased protections against harassment on the job.
“Our bargaining committee worked very hard to get this strong new agreement, and we are quite happy that our work paid off,” said SEIU 32BJ President Kyle Bragg. “New Yorkers work hard to build justice in our communities. When we have good wages, strong benefits and fair working conditions, we can build our city’s middle class and a secure future for our children.”
The agreement was reached after more than a month of negotiations with the Realty Advisory Board, a group representing commercial building owners and cleaning contractors.
The new four-year contract – subject to ratification by members – includes: 10.81% in wage increases, which will make the wages of the average cleaner $29.47, before benefits, by 2023; allowing members to retain quality health insurance without premium sharing; and other major improvements in working conditions.
The contract also includes stronger protections against sexual harassment. The new contract provisions require that employers provide and post a sexual harassment policy in the workplace, protects workers against harassment by third parties, establishes training for all employees and all managers, and lays out a process for follow up and discipline.
“All I wanted for Christmas was a strong new contract, not just for my family, but for the families of all my brothers and sisters in the union, and I am so happy we have that now,” said Kristinia Bellamy, a cleaner at 919 Third Avenue for 13 years and a member of the bargaining committee. “As a breast cancer survivor, I know first-hand the life-saving difference our quality, affordable health care makes. Having that, wages that help us keep up with the rising cost of living in this city, and the benefits and work conditions that allow us to build a better future for our families and our communities is what helps us keep our city strong.”
Arriving at an agreement averted the possibility of a strike in the new year. On Wednesday afternoon, in the middle of a snow storm near Rockefeller Center, members of SEIU 32BJ voted to authorize the bargaining committee to call a strike if no agreement had been reached before the current contract expires on December 31.
Such a strike would have affected over 1,300 buildings in New York City where an estimated 1.45 million New Yorkers work and shop, including iconic sites such as the Empire State Building, headquarters and major offices for companies like Google, Facebook, Goldman Sachs and Deutsche Bank, and large commercial office and shopping centers such as Rockefeller Center, Hudson Yards, and World Trade Center.
This strong contract is one of several that the union has won in the past month many of the states and cities it covers, including: New Jersey, Philadelphia, Western Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Long Island, Washington, DC, and Virginia.
32BJ’s New York cleaners will ratify the new agreement in January.
With 175,000 members in eleven states and Washington, D.C., including 85,000 in New York, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.