Cincinnati janitors and supporters take their fight for good jobs to Fifth Third’s doorstep

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As Cincinnati janitors and cleaning companies continue contract talks…

Cincinnati janitors and supporters take their fight for good jobs to Fifth Third’s doorstep
CINCINNATI| As Cincinnati janitors and their employers, cleaning companies, entered their third day of contract negotiations, about 100 janitors and community supporters marched through downtown and held a rally outside the Fifth Third Center. Fifth Third is one of many profitable Cincinnati-based corporations whose offices are cleaned by members of SEIU Local 1.

Despite cleaning the headquarters of some of the biggest and richest companies in the country, full time janitors in Cincinnati are paid less than $18,000 a year—below the poverty level and not nearly enough to support a family. Cincinnati is home to 10 Fortune 500 companies, including Procter and Gamble, Macy’s, Fifth Third Bancorp, and Western and Southern Financial.

“We clean the headquarters of companies that are making millions and millions of dollars,” says Dwayne Jefferson, a janitor employed by Scioto at the Hamilton County Jobs and Family Services building. “But the wealth isn’t ‘trickling down’ to our neighborhoods. The only way we are going to beat back poverty and crime in our city is by creating good jobs. And that’s not going to happen unless we stand up and fight.”

While Cincinnati’s wealthiest companies made almost $17 billion in profit last year, our city’s poverty rate continued to rise.  Cincinnati currently has the 3rd highest child poverty rate in the nation. The Cincinnati Enquirer reported last week that a staggering 70 percent of Cincinnati Public Schools’ 33,000 students live in poverty.

“We need to build a city that rewards hard work at every level, for every person,” said City Councilmember P.G. Sittenfeld, who spoke at the janitors’ rally. “Children all across Cincinnati are going to bed hungry, in large part because their parents’ jobs don’t pay a living wage. We all need to take responsibility for the problem of poverty in our communities. That’s what the Cincinnati janitors are doing here today, and I’m proud to stand with them.”

In 2006, Cincinnati janitors organized a union for the first time. The contract they negotiated with cleaning contractors raised standards in the commercial cleaning industry and forged a path out of poverty for more than 1,000 janitors and their families. This contract expires on October 1st. Janitors and representatives from cleaning companies began negotiations for a new contract earlier this month.

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