Janitors, employers reach tentative contract agreement

Janitors and their employers have reached a tentative agreement for a new four-year contract — one that includes the largest janitorial wage increases in more than 20 years, according to SEIU.

The janitors with SEIU Local 26 will vote on the agreement this weekend. The contract deal was reached around 1 a.m. Monday after 12 hours of bargaining — the 18th negotiation session held.

Janitors held a 24-hour strike Feb. 17 and organized several rallies and marches to call attention to their campaign for higher wages and improved working conditions. SEIU Local 26 represents 4,000 janitors in the Twin Cities.

Under terms of the tentative contract, 60 percent of janitors would get raises to over $15/hour, according to SEIU. For the first time, part-time janitors will also have access to full healthcare benefits and paid sick days. Full-time janitors will also see an improvement in their healthcare benefits.

There will also be new reviews of janitors’ workloads and a University of Minnesota study on work site issues.

Janitors with SEUI Local 26 are 90 percent people of color.

Brahim Kone, a janitor from St. Paul and a bargaining team leader, said it’s been a “hard fight” and one that will have an impact on tackling the state’s racial disparities.

“Alongside many other important wins, we won the largest raise in decades for Twin Cities janitors, moving full time workers like myself over $15 immediately, and for the first time we won steps forward on addressing our workload crisis,” he said. “This is a big win for our union, and a big win for our community. Janitors stood together through many months to win what is right, and we are so excited for this victory.”

Lucia Guaman, a janitor contracted with Harvard Maintenance to clean the RBC Plaza, called the new protections addressing working conditions a big victory.

“Winning new policies about workload, including walkthroughs with union stewards and a plan to do a worker-centered third-party study about the real challenges facing janitors so we can end this workload crisis once and for all, are huge wins for janitors and our families,” Guaman said.

John Nesse, chief negotiator for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association, declined to discuss details of the proposed contract.

“Out of respect for the union’s ratification process, we are unable to discuss the details of the settlement at this time. We believe this settlement is in the mutual best interest of the employees, the employers and the customers we serve,” he said. “This bargaining process involved 18 sessions over more than four months. I believe that everyone involved is pleased to have avoided a second strike. And we are pleased that this process has concluded with an agreement and a hand shake.”