Diane Hudson wants a new union contract that will bring her family out of poverty. She works as a janitor at the Columbus Academy, a private PreK-12 school in Gahanna. Hudson supports her elderly mother and struggles every month to make ends meet. A living wage would mean “we don’t have to be under so much stress, living paycheck to paycheck,” she said.
On October 29 hundreds of janitors held a rally at the Great American Tower in Cincinnati to kick off contract negotiations. The new contracts will affect 1,800 members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 in central and southern Ohio, including 800 janitors who work in the Columbus area. The current Columbus contract, which expires December 31, covers janitors who clean the offices of Columbus’ largest companies, including Nationwide, Huntington, JP Morgan Chase, and AEP.
Benefits are also an issue for Diane Hudson. “I’d like to get paid for PTO time,” she said. “Often when I put in for it, it’s denied. We also need a better health plan.” Hudson is not on her company’s insurance plan because she cannot afford the high premiums. “It would mean a great deal to me to be able to go to the doctor when I need to,” she said.
Hudson’s employer is Scioto Services, a cleaning company that contracts janitorial services to the Columbus Academy. Full-time tuition at Columbus Academy ranges from $17,500 to $25,000 a year. Its annual operating budget is $25.7 million.