A group of Cincinnati janitors went on strike Thursday after enduring what they describe as intimidation and harassment from their employer.
About 60 or 70 people came out to the corner of Fourth and Vine streets at about 5 p.m. Thursday, picket signs in tow. Family members joined the line, including kids who normally would have been out trick-or-treating.
Service Employees International Union Local 1 janitors announced the strike in an afternoon press conference Downtown.
A group of SEIU Local 1 janitors working in Columbus called a strike after raising similar concerns with employers in August.
The local represents about 200 workers for New York-based facility services company ABM, but only a portion of those workers are going on strike. The workers primarily service Downtown commercial buildings.
An SEIU regional spokeswoman said the strike could be expanded.
“Cincinnati janitors are calling attention to this rising income inequality and its impact on our communities,” according to a statement from SEIU Local 1.
“Despite cleaning the headquarters of some of the biggest and richest companies in the country, full-time janitors are paid less than $18,000 a year-below the poverty level for a family.”
In a note sent to regional clients about a year ago, members of the Cincinnati Area Contractors Association said it would continue to try and work a mutually beneficial deal with the union. The association includes ABM.
Negotiations remain stalled.
“Despite our good-faith efforts, the SEIU cut off bargaining at the end of October without putting forth a realistic proposal,” the note said.
“They continue to demand increases that are simply unrealistically high, given the economic challenges and customers’ needs to manage costs carefully, as well as recent increases we’ve provided.”
The group also told contractors that its member companies provide good wages, health care benefits, paid vacations and holidays and job training to workers. The companies also said workers make 40 percent more now than they did five years ago.
Day porter Chenicka Lynn, 33, of Cincinnati said instead of going out with her children to trick-or-treat Thursday night, she joined the picket line in support of union members. She said many people are struggling to make ends meet going to work and they’re upset that bargaining representatives have said the company may not increase wages.
Rockdale Baptist Church Pastor Rousseau O’Neal said the company that had $4 billion in revenue last year should be able to pay people a wage where they would not be in poverty.
“It’s important for everyone to be in an uproar,” O’Neal said.