Milwaukee Janitors Deserve Better

150 janitors and supporters from labor, community and faith groups rallied in front of BMO Harris Bank’s headquarters in Chicago to protest the poverty wages and lack of benefits that the cleaning contractor hired by BMO Harris provides. Janitors who clean their Milwaukee Bank argue that BMO Harris is contributing to the cycle of poverty by hiring a janitorial company that provides substandard poverty wage jobs.

Keaira Fry speaks out at a BMO branch in Chicago.

Keaira Fry speaks out at a BMO branch in Chicago.

Keiara Fry, a CleanPower Janitor who believes she was fired for speaking out about work conditions, said, “With the little money that CleanPower pays us to clean BMO, I had to rely on government assistance to make ends meet. We deserve better.”

BMO reported making $975 million in profits in their second quarter; in 2012 BMO made more than $4 billion. Despite soaring profits, BMO Harris contracts CleanPower, a janitorial contractor that pays their employees only about $9,000 a year without benefits or affordable health care to clean their Milwaukee building.

Reverend C. J. Hawking, who attended the rally in support of the Milwaukee janitors, said, “We are deeply disappointed with BMO Harris. If Janitors who clean BMO in Chicago can earn a living wage with affordable health care and benefits, why are janitors who clean BMO in Milwaukee paid poverty wages.”

In contrast, the janitors at BMO’s Headquarters in Chicago are employed by a responsible janitorial contractor and are paid almost twice as much and have employer provided health insurance. They will join the protest in support of the Milwaukee custodians and community supporters as they urge BMO Harris Bank to help create good family sustaining jobs for Milwaukee, which has the 4th highest poverty rate in the country.

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