Detroit City Council Unanimously Passes Resolution Supporting $15 Wage for Janitors

Resolution comes as janitors prepare to hit the bargaining table tomorrow, June 20

DETROIT – Detroit City Council President Pro Tempore Mary Sheffield announced that the Council unanimously passed a resolution aimed at raising the pay for downtown janitors to at least $15 per hour. The resolution passed the day before SEIU Local 1 janitors hit the bargaining table to fight for the raises and strong new contract they need to support their families and their communities.

The resolution is a clear message that Detroit’s elected city leaders, who approve downtown tax abatements and incentives, support downtown developers placing these workers on a path to at least $15 an hour, a wage that allows them to better support their families.

Currently, downtown janitors earn as low as $9.25 to $12.45 per hour, making them eligible for government assistance despite working long weeks. As a result, in part, Detroit doubles the national average in unemployment and is first amongst the top 20 big cities in terms of poverty.

“There comes a time as elected officials that we stop simply reciting these statistics and do something to change the narrative,” said Sheffield, who sponsored the resolution. “We have seen tremendous growth in our downtown, and today, by passing this resolution, this body is saying that those who clean and protect our growth shouldn’t be left behind.”

Downtown janitors hailed the council’s support for the campaign to pay janitors a minimum of $15 per hour.

“Local 1 janitors look forward to working with the Detroit City Council to raise wages to at least $15 and to guarantee union rights for all of our city’s working people,” said Daniel Bell, a member of SEIU Local 1 and janitor at Chase Tower. “We all need the opportunity to share in the prosperity from Detroit’s ‘rebirth,’ not just the wealthy owners. Making sure all Detroiters make at least $15 per hour and have union rights is a good start. These developments are built with our tax dollars – $15 per hour and union rights is the least they could do in return.”

Today, commercial real estate in Detroit’s downtown is valued at anywhere from $21 to $26 per square foot. Putting things in perspective, the Detroit City Council and the Wayne County Commission have approved more than $1 billion in tax incentives to help developers build and renovate downtown office buildings and entertainment venues in recent years.

Last week, janitors kicked off the One Detroit campaign to make sure all working people benefit from the city’s redevelopment. In addition to urging downtown building owners to ensure that janitors and security officers are paid decent wages, the One Detroit campaign asserts all workers’ right to affiliate with unions to negotiate wages – free from employer interference.

“We commend Mary Sheffield and the entire Detroit City Council for making such a clear statement about our janitors,” said Stephanie Arellano, Detroit City Director of the Service Employees International Union Local 1. “Local 1 janitors are proud of the work they do, and they deserve better for their families.”


Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest, including janitors, security officers, higher education faculty, food service workers and others. Local 1 is committed to improving the lives of its members and all working people by winning real economic justice and standing at the forefront of the fight for immigrant, racial and environmental justice.



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