April 03, 2012
Armed with a strike-authorization vote, the head of the union that represents janitors at most downtown office buildings says his members are quite prepared to walk out if they don’t get an acceptable new contract.
In a phone interview, Tom Balanoff, regional chief of the Service Employees International Union, said wages and health insurance are the key issues in talks between his members and a trade group that represents building management.
“We’re making some progress, but there’s a wide divide,” Mr. Balanoff said. “We certainly hope we’re able to reach an agreement, but we know our membership is ready to strike, believe me.”
Mike Cornicelli, executive director of the Building Owners and Managers Association, said his group is “confident that we will reach a mutually acceptable agreement.”
Traditionally the two sides have reached deals without a strike, though the SEIU did stage a one-day walkout several years ago.
At issue is a contract covering about 14,000 janitors in downtown and suburban offices, and at institutions such as Chicago Public Schools. The current contract is good only through next Sunday, April 8.
The union’s membership authorized a strike over the weekend. The union says the average janitor makes about $30,000 a year. Mr. Cornicelli says pay begins at $15.30 an hour, plus benefits.