Thousands of Janitors will take to the Streets to Rally for a Fair Contract

Media Advisory for: Thursday, September 26, 12:00pm
For more information:

Julie Blust, 215-713-6777 jblust@seiu32bj.org
Traci Benjamin 215-300-0776 tbenjamin@seiu32bj.org

Massive Crowd Marches to Rittenhouse Square to Demand their Share of Center City’s Prosperity

Philadelphia – Joined by Mayor Jim Kenney, more than a thousand members of the property service workers union, 32BJ SEIU will fill the streets of Philadelphia on Thursday at 12:00pm to demand that cleaners and other building service workers are able to care for their families and join the middle class.

Contract negotiations for nealry 3,000 Philly cleaners kicked off last week, just as city is mourning the loss of thousands of good union jobs following the closing of the PES refinery and Hahnemann hospital. Despite the largest commercial real estate boom that Philadelphia has seen in decades, employers have already proposed dramatic cuts to the cleaners’ benefits. The plight of the cleaners—mostly African American and immigrant men and women—has come to represent the struggle to make a dent in the city’s persistent high poverty rate. With the city’s wealthiest sector moving to cut benefits from workers of color at a time of record profits, the cleaners are not only fighting for a fair contract for themselves, but to stop a race to the bottom for all workers.

The Building Justice march begins at 20th and Market Streets and will culminate with a rally at the intersection of 18th and Walnut Streets.

WHAT: Building Justice Rally
WHEN: Thursday, September 26, 12:00pm-1:30pm

12:00pm: March from 20th and Market, ending at a rally at 18th and Walnut

12:45pm: Program at 18th and Walnut
Mayor Jim Kenney
Kyle Bragg, President of 32BJ SEIU
Mary Kay Henry, President of the Service Employees International Union
Tiffany Cherry, Commercial Cleaner and 32BJ SEIU member
Reverend Gregory Holston, POWER

BACKGROUND:
In Philadelphia, nearly 3,000 workers are covered under a union contract that expires on October 15 at 11:59pm and are employed in 120 office buildings across the city. They work in many of the city’s most prominent locations including the Commerce Building, FMC, Comcast, PECO Building and many more. They will be negotiating with Building Operators Labor Relations (BOLR), which represents the city’s largest building owners and contractors.

These cleaners, who are mostly African American and immigrants, live in the city’s working poor and middle neighborhoods. Their jobs—bolstered by Center City’s booming commercial real estate industry—often support multiple generations and have a ripple effect throughout the neighborhoods that need it most.

More than 75,000 office cleaners up and down the East Coast are bargaining for a contract this year. As the real estate market continues to rake in huge profits, thousands of janitors are fighting to maintain health and retirement benefits and are calling for wages to keep up with the rising cost of living. This is the largest private sector contract negotiations taking place in the country and will affect the lives of close to half a million men, women and children.

Long before the “Fight for 15” fast food worker movement made headlines, janitors laid the foundation of the low-wage worker movement with the Justice for Janitors’ movement born in 1985. Over the years, workers across the country have fought to increase wages and lift themselves out of poverty. Fast food workers, airport workers, parking workers and more stand on their shoulders fighting for $15 an hour and a union.

With more than 175,000 members in 11 states, including 21,000 in PA and DE, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.

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