On Monday afternoon, a rally drew nearly 100 janitors and community supporters, their largest protest yet outside the 175 on the Park building downtown. The janitors, who work for the Columbus-based Circle Building Services and other cleaning contractors, are asking for aliving wage and health care coverage from their employers.
“We’re here to send a very strong message,”SEIU Local 1 president Tom Balanoff told the crowd. “We’re tired of economic policies that push working families further and further down. We don’t want an economic recovery that’s just for the rich guys and the financiers. We need a recovery for the working people in this country.”
Balanoff also called on the building owner,Tiano and Associates, to support higher wages and health care for the janitors, who have been in contract negotiations for the past eight months.
“We are here to support better wages and affordable health care,” said Mohamud Jama of the Somali Education and Resource Center. Many of the janitors who work downtown are from the Somali immigrant community.
“When I was in second grade, my parents told me that if I wanted to go to college, I needed to get a job,” said Ohio State Rep. John Patrick Carney (D). “I realize what it takes for so many families to be able to put food on the table, to make the monthly rent. At $8.50 an hour, that is just not possible.
“We, your elected leaders, need to make sure that folks in management realize that you are the people who are building Ohio,” Carney said. “I know that reason is going to prevail. We’re going to see folks come to the table and realize that you are looking out for your families, just like they’re looking out for theirs. You deserve to have that American dream, and that only comes with decent wages and decent benefits.”
The janitors will meet on Saturday, July 20 to decide whether to go on strike. “This will be the first time in Columbus that we have authorized a strike vote,” said SEIU organizer Liliana Castillo.