Columbus. Ohio janitors represented by SEIU will enter the New Year knowing that there is power in the union. The janitors reached a new contract agreement after a one-year battle with predominantly national cleaning companies. Contract talks broke down when the companies demanded a wage freeze and a return to part-time hours. But the janitors decided to stand together and fight. SEIU organizer Amanda Hart.
[Amanda Hart]: “We did fight back. And we joined with community and faith and elected leaders. We rallied and protested and many of our workers even went out on strike. And on two separate occasions community members were arrested in non-violent civil disobedience actions in support of good jobs for our janitors. And at the end of the day their efforts paid off and we improved jobs in Columbus. It really just showed people that whenever you stand up together, gains can be made. This is a victory for us. When you’re looking at your hours being cut from full-time to part-time, that can be up to half your income. Like, how do you survive after that – other than going to get get a second or third job? It’s just not sustainable. And that’s why they made the decision to stand up. And at the end of the day, we did it.”
Carla Nugeness says she and her fellow workers united and were determined to not only fight for their rights and to improve their working conditions, but to win that fight.
[Carla Nugeness]: “I feel much better. We have more full-time buildings, which will help a lot of the janitors. The knocking down the hours was hard for everybody, so the full-time hours will help everybody out. I’ve been out there every day in the cold and the wind and the rain and tryin’ to keep warm at the same, tryin’ to fight for our rights and for everybody else’s rights and help all of us out. All of us janitors have a hard time, I mean, on what we make. And now we can maybe make it.”
The new contract for the Columbus janitors takes effect January 1st.
(Thanks to Evan Davis at WCRS radio in Columbus for audio used in this story.)