Pioneer Press cleans house

The Pioneer Press is terminating the cleaning contract for its downtown St. Paul office building. This means that five part-time, unionized employees, who earn $9.40 an hour working for American Building Maintenance, will likely lose their jobs at the end of the year.

The newspaper has decided to bring in a cheaper, non-union contractor, Leone's Building Services. "They're just trying to save a buck," says Russell Lewis, a business representative for Service Employees International Union, Local 26, which represents the workers. "Leone's is not going to pay their people anywhere near the $9.40 an hour that these ABM people are being paid."

The Pi Press' parent company, Knight Ridder, is currently being shopped to various newspaper chains and investment groups. Consequentially the newspaper is under tremendous pressure to cut costs and boost profit margins. The ABM workers were slated to receive a 35-cent-an-hour raise on January 1st. "ABM had actually said they would eat the 35 cent raise themselves and not charge the Pioneer Press, and they still fired them," says Lewis.

In a statement released by the Pioneer Press, the newspaper says that ABM simply lost out in a routine competitive-bidding process. "The Pioneer Press does not handle the hiring or firing of individuals who work for contracted janitorial services," the statement notes.

Union supporters passed out flyers outside the office building during lunchtime yesterday. (To see a copy of the flyer click here). But it seems highly unlikely that they'll be able to convince the newspaper to reverse the decision.

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