Strike Averted: Suburban Commercial Office Cleaners Reach a Tentative Agreement with Employers

Strike Averted: Suburban Commercial Office Cleaners Reach a Tentative Agreement with Employers

New Contract with Living Wage Makes Holidays Bright for 1,400 Local Janitors

MONTGOMERY COUNTY – Just before the midnight expiration, the 32BJ SEIU Suburban Bargaining Committee has secured a tentative, four-year agreement with the Building Operators Labor Relations (BOLR) Suburban Division, subject to ratification, covering 1,400 commercial office cleaners that includes fair wage increases and maintains benefits at their current level.

“This contract means the world to me and my family. I will have a good Christmas knowing that next year I don’t have to worry as much about money. I won’t have to work a second or third job and will be able to spend more time with my family,” said cleaner and bargaining committee member, Huascar Aragones. “I am grateful to everyone who has supported us.”

Negotiations for a new contract covering more than 1,400 commercial office cleaners in suburban Philadelphia began on Nov. 5. The mostly-immigrant janitors make $12.35 an hour and will see wage raises of nearly $2 an hour over the life of the contract. The details of the contract will be available pending the member ratification vote this weekend.

“This is a win win for everyone. Just in time for the holidays, these workers will receive a wage increase that helps them put food on the table and presents underneath the tree,” said Daisy Cruz, 32BJ SEIU Mid-Atlantic Director. “We are happy the building operators are committed to maintaining good jobs that fuel our local economy.”

The janitors clean 170 office buildings, including those of prominent multi-billion dollar pharmaceutical companies, biotech firms and financial services firms throughout Bucks, Chester, Montgomery, and Delaware counties like Johnson & Johnson, Merck U.S. Commercial Headquarters, GlaxoSmithKline, Brandywine Realty Trust, and Vanguard.

“This agreement proves that when workers and employers come together, we can build an economy that works for everyone,” said Gabe Morgan, 32BJ SEIU Vice President.

Hundreds of cleaners in Bucks, Montgomery, Chester, and Delaware counties have taken action in recent months through worksite protests, rallies, marches and forums. The suburban janitors have also received the support of Center City cleaners, clergy members and numerous elected officials.
In an op-ed in yesterday’s Delco Times, Senator Daylin Leach editorialized in support of the janitors receiving a living wage.

“Immigrant janitors have come to the United States willing to work hard in order to give their families a better life,” said Leach. “Now, instead of suffering silently in the shadows, they have organized in order to make their jobs and their communities better. They represent what is great about our country — the idea that if you work hard, you will be able to get ahead.”

In the midst of the budget showdown, Governor Wolf expressed his support for the workers.

“I support the suburban Philadelphia janitors in their fight for a living wage. These men and women perform some the hardest jobs and they should not have to struggle to support their families,” said Governor Tom Wolf.

More than 130,000 SEIU janitors across the nation will negotiate contracts in 2015-2016 to raise the standards of their industry. More than 75,000 from Boston to Virginia are members of 32BJ SEIU. On Wednesday, thousands of commercial cleaners in NYC and New Jersey will vote to authorize a strike if an agreement is not reach by the Dec. 31 deadline.

With more than 145,000 members in nine states, including 22,000 in Pennsylvania, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property services union in the country.
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