As poverty in our city rises, even as unemployment continues to drop…
Columbus janitors authorize strike in historic vote
COLUMBUS—On Saturday, July 20th, Columbus janitors held an emergency meeting and voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if necessary. Following their meeting, janitors announced the outcome of their vote to media and community supporters. Janitors were joined by elected leaders, including State Representative Tracy Heard.
Columbus janitors, who clean the majority of the commercial office space downtown, and cleaning contractors returned to the bargaining table on Monday, July 15th. Full-time Columbus janitors are currently paid just over $18,000 a year—well below the poverty level for a family. By contrast, the CEOs of Columbus’s Fortune 1000 companies took home more than $133 million in 2012.
Cleaning companies are still threatening to freeze wages for at least 2 years and to slash janitors’ hours. This would have a devastating effect on hundreds of working families in Columbus as janitors would not only lose access to health care, but up to half their income.
For months now, janitors and their supporters have been calling on local corporations to support a fair contract and to create good, family-sustaining jobs in Columbus, where the concentrated poverty rate has nearly doubled in the last 10 years. While business booms and the unemployment rate in Columbus continues to drop, the number of working people in our city living in poverty is rising, as is reliance on public assistance programs like food stamps. This is because fewer and fewer jobs in Columbus pay a living wage. In fact, a majority of Ohioans make less today than they did in 1979. Of the 10 largest occupations in Ohio, 8 do not pay enough for an adult and a child to survive without welfare.
“We’re fighting for good jobs for ourselves and for the next generation,” says Dwayne Paige, a Columbus janitor and father. “I want my daughter to have a better future, and that’s not going to happen if wages for working people stay the same while everything else goes up.”
Today’s “yes” vote means that the janitors’ bargaining committee can call a strike if and when it becomes necessary. Janitors and representatives for cleaning contractors are scheduled to meet again on Monday, August 5th.