Negotiations Break Down for #ColumbusJanitors

Negotiations broke down Monday (September 30) when ABM, the largest cleaning contractor, refused to support full-time, family sustaining jobs for Columbus.

Freda Pridgen, Columbus Janitor, speaking at a rally on September 23rd.

Freda Pridgen, Columbus Janitor, speaking at a rally on September 23rd.

Columbus—Negotiations for a city-wide janitorial contract broke down yesterday when cleaning contractors chose personal profits over good jobs for the Columbus economy. New York City based ABM, a multi-million dollar national corporation, took the lead in refusing to support full-time, family sustaining jobs for Columbus workers.

According to contractors, their clients—for ABM, this includes corporate building owners and tenants like Nationwide, Fifth Third Bank and PNC Bank—want the majority full time workforce to be slashed to majority part time. If janitors submitted to this demand, wages for nearly 1,000 working families in Columbus would be cut in half and hundreds of families would be forced to turn to public assistance programs for income support and health care.

“We work hard. All we want is respect and better jobs for our families. We came to the table yesterday hoping to reach an agreement with our employers,” said Claude Smith, an ABM janitor and member of the bargaining team. “But we left disappointed that ABM, a rich corporation, refuses to support good jobs for our city.”

Columbus’s unemployment rate is better than the national average, yet one in four children live in poverty. Their parents are working, but are not paid enough to support their families. Decisions to slash hours and block access to affordable health care are plaguing our local economy as taxpayers are forced to bear the burden for employers. Janitors in Columbus clean some of the most expensive real estate in the world, yet are paid just $18,000 a year—if they work full time—and already qualify for a variety of public assistance programs, including Section 8 and food stamps.

The disappointing breakdown in negotiations comes just days after Columbus area janitors went on a one day unfair labor practice strike against Professional Maintenance on September 24. Cleaning companies have been habitually violating federal law by harassing and intimidating their employees after they began standing up for job improvements. The strike gained national attention at a time when our country is in the midst of a debate over who is responsible for creating good, family-sustaining jobs.

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