January 11, 2013 | By Steve Palm-Houser
On Wednesday, about 50 janitors gathered at the Greater Columbus Convention Center and marched through the center of downtown to gather support for contract negotiations with their employers.
Contract negotiations had stalled on Tuesday, when cleaning contractors that employ janitors for Fortune 500 companies called for a three-year wage freeze, and asked janitors to pay more for health care coverage. The janitors have been working without a contract since December 1.
The rally’s first stop was at Nationwide Plaza. “We want Nationwide to support the janitors in their effort for a new contract,” said Liliana Castillo, Columbus organizer for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1. “Nationwide employs a lot of the cleaning companies that are at the table with us. We’re asking them to urge these cleaning companies to come to an agreement with us.
“We’re not asking for a lot,” Castillo said. “We’re asking to have health insurance. We’re asking to have full-time hours to support our families. We’re asking for modest raises that will be just enough to get us by. We’re asking for the basics.”
The janitors marched to Huntington Square, gathering more supporters on the way. A small delegation went inside to speak with the building owners while the rally continued outside.
“It’s a struggle to make ends meet for my family,” said Dwayne Paige, who is employed by the cleaning contractor Scioto Services. “I want to be able to save so my children can go to college.”
“With what we make now, it’s hard to get by,” said Ryan Ream, who works in Nationwide Plaza One. “It really is living week to week. If my car were to break down, I’d have to take out a payday loan.” Ream is also a full-time student at Ohio State.
The janitors will go back to the bargaining table with their employers on January 29 and 30.