Downtown Columbus Janitors Announce Strike

***For Immediate Release***

Contact: Ivan Moreno, (773) 799-6455, morenoi@seiu1.org

Janitors call on cleaning companies to invest in desperately needed good jobs for Columbus

Columbus— Janitors and supporters held a rally and press conference in front of 5/3 Bank, announcing plans for first janitorial strike in the city’s history. Talks between janitors and representatives from some of the country’s largest cleaning companies broke down during their last scheduled meeting on Wednesday. Negotiations have taken a dramatic turn that would force janitors deeper into the cycle of poverty. Some of the city’s most profitable corporations contract out cleaning services to companies that pay janitors about $18,200 on average.

While other cities in Ohio were hit hard by the recent economic downturn, Columbus’s corporations were largely unaffected; working families in our city were not so lucky.  While Columbus’s unemployment rate remains well below the national average at 6.2 percent, the poverty rate in our city has nearly doubled in the past 10 years. The child poverty rate now stands at 26.5 percent. Columbus janitor’s wages are so low that they qualify for a host of public assistance programs, such as Medicaid, free or reduced price school lunches and subsidized housing. They also earn less than their counterparts in comparable cities.

“The offer that janitors made on Wednesday would have protected full time hours and access affordable health care, and guaranteed modest wage increases that would have set hundreds of working families on a path out of poverty,” said Tyler French, SEIU Local 1 regional coordinator.

Columbus janitors clean the offices of some of the richest corporations in the country, including 5/3 Bank, Nationwide Insurance, JP Morgan Chase, Huntington Bank, and AEP Energy. In spite of this, janitors are paid so little that they qualify for food stamps and other public assistance programs. Low wage jobs like these are contributing to the rising levels of poverty in Columbus.

“Going on strike is not an easy decision to make, but not having health care and not being able to provide for my family is not an option,” says Dwayne Paige, a Columbus janitor who directly participated in negotiations. “Our city desperately needs good jobs and we want to start by making sure janitors are paid a decent wage with affordable health care.”

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