COLUMBUS, Ohio—Hundreds of members of the Service Employees International Union Local 1 in Columbus are now authorized to strike as the group works to negotiate a new employment contract.
The group’s old contract expired in December 2012.
The vote to authorize a strike happened on Saturday and now means that workers can strike at anytime going forward in the negotiations.
According to Tyler French with the SEIU, employers are asking workers to cut hours and freeze wages. French also says that cutting hours means many of the workers would no longer qualify for health insurance.
Dwayne Paige is among the janitors who voted to authorize a strike. Paige says he worries about paying for his 16-year-old’s college education in a few years as well as what losing health insurance would mean.
“Health care is definitely a top issue. Cause I’m a diabetic. And I got to have my health care. If I don’t go see the doctor once a month and get my meds I could pretty much die,” Paige said.
NBC4 was unable to reach the workers’ employers for comment. However, many employers say they need to freeze wages in the current economy in order to survive while their own costs go up.
Local 1’s negotiations are currently on hold until early August.