BOSTON--In a breakthrough that will improve the lives of 14,000 New England janitors, Service Employees International Union Local 615 and the Maintenance Contractors of New England reached a tentative agreement for a four-year contract that will provide significant gains for workers around hours, wages, healthcare, workload and job security. Janitors still need to ratify the contract.
The agreement came after a campaign that galvanized support from a vast array of community organizations, faith and labor leaders, members of the business community, and elected officials - including, Mayor Tom Menino, Sen. John Kerry, state Treasurer Steve Grossman, and U.S. Representatives Michael Capuano, William Keating, Stephen Lynch, Edward Markey, James McGovern, Richard Neal, John Olver, John Tierney and Niki Tsongas.
"We went into these negotiations with a goal of more hours, better pay and employer-paid healthcare for more of our workers. I am proud to say the tentative agreement we are taking back to our members has achieved those goals," said SEIU Local 615 bargaining committee member Silvia Clarke. "I was moved by the support we received from the community--from faith leaders to elected officials. We won this agreement by standing united and fighting for what was just."
The tentative agreement includes hard-fought gains in:
• Full-time work to increase 200 percent over last contract: Cleaning contractors agreed to convert a minimum of 680 jobs to full-time positions over four years--with a goal to convert even more jobs to full time as additional hours become available. We have agreed that all newly constructed buildings of more than 450,000 square feet in the metro Boston area and Cambridge will be staffed full time.
• Wages: For janitors who work in the metro Boston area, wages will increase to $17.85 by 2016 an 11.9 percent increase. Raises for workers in other markets range from 12.4 percent to 13 percent over the life of the contract.
• Workload: For the first time, janitors--many of whom are required to clean hundreds of offices in an evening--have a process to resolve issues over excessive workloads.
• Minimum Hours: The contract creates a new minimum shift of four hours for all janitors working in commercial office buildings of more than 100,000 square feet to be achieved through attrition.
• Healthcare: Contractors agreed to preserve healthcare, vision and dental benefits.
• Job Security: The contract improves job security for janitors by eliminating probationary periods in situations when a building changes cleaning contractors. This means that when there is a change of contractor at a building, workers who have more than one year of service will no longer be subject to a new probationary period.
• Unscrupulous contractors. The agreement creates a joint labor-management funded watchdog organization to investigate and abolish illegal and unfair employment practices in the janitorial industry.
• Personal day. For the first time, workers will earn one personal day per year starting in the second year of the contract.
In addition to improvements in hours, wages, healthcare, workload and job security, the janitors' campaign raised important questions about the best methods to reduce the gap between the wealthiest 1% and everyone else. For years, corporate profits have been growing at the expense of workers' wages and benefits. According to JP Morgan, these reductions were responsible for nearly 75 percent of the increase in corporate profits between 2000 and 2007--a trend that has only worsened since the economic downturn. Coupled with recent victories in Houston and other parts of the country, the tentative agreement between New England janitors and cleaning contractors may serve as an important step in reversing this trend.
"Our tentative agreement is a big victory not just for janitors but for all of New England," said Rocio Saenz, SEIU Local 615 president. "It shows how workers and contractors can come together to create good jobs that strengthen our communities and allow workers to provide a better future for their families."