When the Twin Cities show up for work today, nothing will seem out of the ordinary. The more than 4,000 janitors in all the skyscrapers, office buildings, and airport terminals will be on the job - keeping the city running. And they may have a big smile on their faces.
After 26 hours of last-minute bargaining, SEIU Local 26 janitors won a contract for good, green full-time jobs that include affordable health care.
The deal reached with the Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association came only after janitors had prepared for a region-wide strike that would have started today. They had spent the weekend making signs, writing chants, and preparing to take their message to the streets. Now, the only preparations needed are for the victory party after the ratification vote on Saturday.
The tentative agreement includes across-the-board wins for janitors. Among them are:
- Access to one common health insurance plan with better benefit levels for both single and family coverage, while maintaining affordable premiums.
- The right to eight hour, full-time jobs by 2012, and job security when buildings choose to switch cleaning companies. Full-time janitors who have had their hours cut back could see their income rise by as much as 38% by January 1, 2012.
- Support for the use of environmentally friendly cleaning products and transitions to day shift cleaning.
There's a press conference today at 12pm EST to announce the good news. But, the Twin Cities janitors didn't wait for the TV cameras to start spreading the word. Within minutes of the agreement, the news spread across hundreds of Facebook profiles and Twitter feeds.
It's one more chapter in the amazing story of SEIU Local 26 members building a better life for themselves, their families, and their communities. And it's not the last chapter. When working people come together and hold strong in the face of adversity, each chapter is better than the last. Nobody, no matter how rich and powerful, can stop us from writing a happy ending.