On Saturday afternoon, Columbus janitors voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike if it becomes necessary. This is the first time the janitors, who clean the majority of the commercial office space downtown, have authorized a strike.
State Representative Tracy Maxwell Heard (D-Columbus) joined the janitors at the Ohio AFL-CIO office after the vote. “Many of these people work with us every day,” Rep. Heard said. “We absolutely stand on the side of right. That’s the side of fair wages, health care, and treating all people like human beings.”
Represented by SEIU Local 1, the janitors returned to the bargaining table with cleaning contractors on Monday, July 15. The cleaning companies have maintained their intention to freeze wages for at least two years and to cut janitors’ hours, disqualifying them for company-provided health coverage.
On average, full-time janitors in Columbus are paid just over $18,000 a year, well below the federal poverty line for a family of four. “By contrast, the CEOs of Columbus’ Fortune 1000 companies took home more than $133 million in 2012,” said Ivan Moreno of the SEIU.
According to The Ohio Poverty Report, the poverty rate in Columbus rose from 14.8 % in 1999 to 21.8% in 2011.
“We’re fighting for good jobs for ourselves and for the next generation,” said janitor Dwayne Paige. “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.”
The janitors have been working without a contract since December. Janitors and representatives for cleaning contractors are scheduled to meet again on Monday, August 5.