SEIU Local 26 janitors win contract, but security officers end negotiations and prepare to strike
SEIU Local 26 janitors after winning a new contract on Saturday.
The 6,000 local janitors and security officers of the Service Employees International Union have been without a contract since January 1. On February 9, they voted to strike if necessary, and going into the weekend, they prepared to put that vote to the test: Friday, SEIU members said, would be their last day at an increasingly-frustrating negotiating table before walking away.
After more than 31 consecutive hours of bargaining, the 4,000 janitors of SEIU won a new contract on Saturday afternoon. But the security officers couldn't strike a similarly satisfactory deal. Now, 2,000 members are preparing to strike.
The officers guard some of downtown's major properties, and have been negotiating with large security companies including Securitas, G4S, and American Security. Though the companies called in a federal mediator, SEIU members say that they haven't budged on key demands.
"It's beyond frustrating that these companies aren't serious about negotiating a new contract," Fred Anthony II, a security officer who works at the EcoLab building, said in an SEIU release. "They walk away, saying they aren't willing to meet again until mid-March. They can't be serious if they're only willing to meet once a month. We can't keep dragging this out."
Yesterday afternoon, security officers gathered at South High School to begin planning for the strike. Other labor unions, community groups and their fellow SEIU-member janitors joined them in support as they created strike signs and discussed where and when to kick off the protest.
This week, those groups will continue to rally with security workers as they embark on a "Unlock Our Future
" week of action, and try to get the security companies to meet them at the negotiating table.
For now, security officers are still on the job, but they could walk off at any moment as the strike begins. SEIU has not yet announced a start, but the officers plan for action this week.
As the security officers prepare to strike, the janitors hail their new contract as a breakthrough. Initially the workers were faced with a proposal that would have reduced 1,200 full-time positions to part-time, slashing benefits.
The new, three-year contract avoids those cuts, and instead offers major gains in wages, healthcare and workload. Janitors will see their hourly wages increase by up to $1.20 over the three years, and they secured better employer-based health care coverage and a process to discuss and resolve their workload.
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