As the nation's attention turns toward job creation, thousands of low-wage janitors and office cleaners in a dozen cities will take to the streets today to support jobs that have created a path to the middle class for hundreds of thousands of workers in some of our most hard-pressed cities.
However, because of the deepening economic crisis, janitors, like many Americans, have seen their standard of living erode and are being asked to work more for less. At the same time, corporations are breaking profit records while paying less corporate tax.
Contracts for nearly 150,000 janitors and office cleaners will expire over the next year, bringing the debate over the role private employers play in our economic recovery to major cities across the country. Janitors and cleaners will be seeking agreements that create good jobs, boost employment and provide tenants and building owners with a reliable, trained and stable workforce in many of our nation's biggest cities from New York to Chicago to Los Angeles.
"Our workload is growing, but not our wages," said Oscar Zapata, a father of two who has worked as a UNICCO-employed cleaner in Washington, D.C., for 16 years but earns just $12.10 per hour. "We want to offer our families a better future; that's hard to do with this salary."
Today's rallies come as contract expiration dates near for 60,000 janitors and office cleaners from Connecticut to Virginia. The first wave of contracts for workers in Philadelphia, the District of Columbia, Northern Virginia, and Montgomery County, Md., represented by Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ will expire at midnight Oct. 15: Pittsburgh-area contracts will expire Oct. 31; and contracts for workers in New York City, Long Island, N.Y., Connecticut, New Jersey and Delaware will expire Dec. 31.
Follow @SEIU on Twitter for updates throughout the day.