Columbus janitors strike in response to employer misconduct, workers across the city stand with them for good jobs

***For IMMEDIATE RELEASE***

Tuesday, September 24, 2013

Contact: Leslie Mendoza Kamstra 773-896-7815 or mendozal@seiu1.org             

After repeated violation of rights under Federal law…

Columbus janitors strike in response to employer misconduct, workers across the city to stand with them for good jobs

Columbus—Columbus janitors have called a strike. Workers report that they have been harassed and threatened by management after standing up for decent wages, affordable health care and full time hours.

In response to janitors’ efforts to improve working conditions, employers have engaged in threats and other conduct prohibited by the National Labor Relations Act.  Janitors from the Lazarus building downtown—owned by taxpayer created and funded Columbus Downtown Development Corporations—announced tonight that they are striking to protest this conduct. Janitors say any building in Columbus where contractors are engaging in similarly unlawful conduct could be next in a rolling strike across the city.

“This was a very hard decision for us to make, but we are doing what we have to do,” says Phillip Rudolph, a janitor at the Lazarus building. “We are standing up for a wage that will allow us to support our families. And in response we are being punished and harassed. So we decided together that we have to stand up for what’s right.”

As Columbus’s poverty rate rises, janitors are calling attention to the income inequality that’s plaguing our city. Despite soaring profits for the Fortune 1,000 companies headquartered in Columbus, the janitors who clean their buildings are paid just $18,000 a year—far less than it takes to raise a family here. The janitorial contractors who employ the janitors are demanding that janitors work fewer hours, which will further cut incomes and force janitors to rely on taxpayer programs to meet basic needs such as healthcare, food, and housing.

While janitors have been seeking decent wages, affordable health care and full time hours, they have been met with threats and intimidation from their employers—especially ABM and Professional Maintenance. Clergy, elected officials, labor and community supporters have appealed to publicly funded building owners in the area like Nationwide and the Columbus Downtown Development Project, who hire these cleaning companies, for support. However, contractors have not stopped violating the janitors’ rights under federal law. As a result, janitors at the Lazarus building are now on strike.

“Once more we ask contractors to return to the bargaining table in good faith,”says Rhonda Johnson, President of the Columbus EducationAssociation. “What the janitors are asking for is, in our judgment, modest and reasonable and a fair contract agreement would go great lengths to promote justice for janitors and good jobs for our city.”

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