Columbus janitors win 3-year contract [The Examiner]

by Steve Palm-Houser, December 17, 2013

Janitors who work in downtown Columbus office buildings have voted to ratify a new three-year contract with their employers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced yesterday in a press release. The contract, which goes into effect on January 1, will affect about 1,000 janitors and their families.

“Today we proved that when workers join together, we have strength. This is a huge victory for all hard working janitors,” said SEIU Local 1 member Claude Smith on Saturday after the contract vote. “With this new contract, our families can live a little better.”

The main point of contention in contract negotiations was maintaining a majority full-time work force. Cleaning contractors wanted to eliminate full-time hour guarantees. The agreement reached keeps the majority of the workforce at full-time status with company-provided benefits. The contract also includes a $.20 per hour wage increase in 2014.

“We all won today,” said SEIU Local 1 president Tom Balanoff. “The community came together in Columbus and chose prosperity over poverty, full-time work over part-time work. This victory brings hope to security officers, fast food workers, and others trapped by poverty wages.”

Janitors went on strike in multiple Columbus office buildings over the past few months. Employees alleged that cleaning companies had repeatedly violated federal law by harassing and intimidating employees after they called for job improvements. The janitors’ struggle garnered support from religious leaders, elected officials, and community groups in central Ohio.

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