Downtown Columbus janitors announce plans for historic strike []

by Steve Palm-Houser, August 11, 2013.

SEIU Local 1 rally at Fifth Third Bank (Steve Palm-Houser).

On Friday afternoon, janitors and community supporters held a rally outside the Columbus corporate offices of Fifth Third Bank to announce plans for the first janitorial strike in the city’s history.

Contract talks broke down on Wednesday between representatives of the janitors’ union and the companies who contract with Fifth Third Bank, Nationwide Insurance, JP Morgan Chase, Huntington Bank, and AEP Energy to clean their office buildings downtown. ABM Industries provides cleaning services for the Fifth Third Bank building.

“The offer that janitors made on Wednesday would have protected full time hours and access to 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, regional coordinator for Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1.

Some of Columbus’ most profitable corporations contract out cleaning services to companies that pay janitors $18,200 a year on average, said Ivan Moreno of SEIU Local 1. “Janitors are paid so little that they qualify for food stamps and other public assistance programs,” he said. “Low wage jobs like these are contributing to the rising levels of poverty in Columbus.”

Union organizers haven’t yet set a strike date. They will notify the janitors — who have been working without a contract since December — whether they will be out on strike this week.

“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,” said Dwayne Paige, a Columbus janitor who participated in the 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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