COLUMBUS – Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 1 janitors who clean Columbus’ downtown buildings like those of Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Huntington Bancshares, American Electric Power, and JP Morgan Chase ratified a historic new union contract as part of their campaign for “One Columbus,” a city in which all working people—white, Black, and brown—can enjoy the benefits of downtown’s growth.
Under the three-year agreement covering 750 janitors, wages will increase on average by more than 13%, putting an additional $6,300.00 into the pockets of janitors over the life of the contract to help them support their families. In addition, janitors will receive a third week of vacation and additional benefits.
“With this contract, I will have a little something left over for myself and have a liveable income,” said Local 1 Janitor, Cristal Sylla. “Janitors stood together at the bargaining table, and we won the good raises we need.”
The victory comes after Local 1 Columbus janitors rallied downtown with community and elected allies to demand better work conditions and higher wages. As part of their One Columbus campaign, janitors fought for a pay increase and improved workplace standards as a way to ensure all Columbus residents and neighborhoods benefit from the city’s booming economic growth.
Yet their fight doesn’t end in Columbus. 600 Local 1 janitors in Cincinnati will soon kick off their own fight for a strong, new contract with a path to $15 and better benefits to ensure working families across the city can support themselves and strengthen their communities.
SEIU Local 1 Janitors Launch Inspiring ‘One Columbus’ Campaign to Fight for Better Pay and Dignity on the Job
Janitors kick off campaign to secure path to $15 hourly wage, union rights for all working people in Columbus
COLUMBUS – Joined by City of Columbus Councilmember Liz Brown and dozens of labor and community allies from across Ohio, SEIU Local 1 janitors rallied Monday afternoon in the Nationwide Arena District to launch their fight for a strong new contract with a path to $15 and better benefits.
“Janitors like me work hard—day in and day out—keeping Columbus clean and running smoothly. Our skilled labor helps contribute to our city’s prosperity, yet many of us can barely afford our groceries or to go to the doctor when we are sick,” said downtown Columbus janitor Cristal Sylla, who has cleaned the 325 John McConnell Boulevard office building for the past four years. “Janitors simply want a fair shot at a good future for our families and our communities. That’s why we’re fighting for good jobs, a strong new contract and a brighter Columbus for all—whether you are Black, white or brown.”
While downtown Columbus is booming with new development worth billions of dollars, the 750 local janitors who do dignified and skilled work to ensure our city runs smoothly are forced to raise their families on wages as low as $11.50. That equals an annual salary of about $23,920, which qualifies a full-time janitor for public assistance for housing, food and healthcare.
“Columbus janitorial workers provide essential services – doing difficult, often thankless, and indispensable work that keeps many downtown buildings clean and safe. Janitors deserve a contract that helps them support themselves and their families, not only because it’s good for them but because it’s good for Columbus. When workers earn the living wages and good benefits that reflect the dignity of their work, it makes all our families stronger.” said Columbus Councilmember Elizabeth Brown, who supports a path to $15.
Many Columbus janitors—who clean offices of major corporations like Nationwide Mutual Insurance Company, Huntington Bancshares, American Electric Power (AEP) and JP Morgan Chase—even work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.
A strong new contract would help guarantee that Columbus janitors can better support their families and communities. While the fight starts with Columbus janitors, it will not stop until all working people across the city, including security officers and other underpaid workers, are sharing in and experiencing the real benefits from the city’s resurgence.
Janitors and their community and labor allies, including from the Columbus Education Association among other organizations, are fighting for “One Columbus.” Because it’s time Columbus worked for all of us—whether Black, white or brown—and not just a certain wealthy few.
The following letter appeared in the Michigan Chronicle on July 31, 2019.
By Sen. Adam Hollier
Six years later, more people have begun to galvanize around a $15 minimum wage as well, but we sometimes forget the people pushing, organizing and sustaining that early movement were unions and workers who know the value of union representation.
Earlier this month — thanks to the work of SEIU Local 1 — janitors and security officers in downtown Detroit were able to successfully negotiate a $15 minimum wage.
Among them was Dolores, a 12-year veteran security officers born and raised in Detroit who is raising her 4-year-old granddaughter and living in subsidized housing. She has worked more than one job all her adult life and is still working part-time hours between two companies. She’s one of the SecurAmerica officers who went on strike, and, after months of being ignored by management, their action earned them a $15-an-hour minimum wage on July 5.
This week, U.S. Sen. Kamala Harris was in town and listened as Mattie Hunter, another security officers, told her story, demanding a voice in her workplace. Thanks to SEIU Local 1 a US Senator, and presidential candidate acknowledged her leadership, echoed her words and showed her respect and dignity. Sen Harris was clear and on target saying “Unions built the middle class, and we must hold corporations like Bedrock accountable to give every worker a voice and fair treatment.”
The fact of the matter is this: Every worker in Detroit and across Michigan deserves to have a workplace that is safe. Unions have led to safer worksites. Every worker deserves fair and true living wages. Unions fight for fair wages for a day’s work. And, for generations, thousands upon thousands of workers in this state – union and non-union – enjoyed employer-paid benefits, better-paying jobs, weekends and more because leaders and unions supported the rise of a middle class.
Unfortunately, that has already started to erode under a Republican-led legislature and the previous administration.
The GOP has spent the last eight years gutting citizen-led referendums intended to support all Michigan workers and making back-door deals to bust up workers’ rights with the so-called “right to work” law.
When the debate about this nation’s and state’s future comes to Michigan next week, let’s let everyone know: It’s not too late to get back to the playbook that built the middle class, and that time is now. BB Workers should be allowed to organize, and everyone deserves a fair, livable wage for a day’s work. A $15 minimum wage is one important part of the equation.
We can do better when we work in solidarity.
Sen. Adam Hollier (D–Detroit) represents citizens of the 2nd District in Wayne County that includes the cities of Detroit, Grosse Pointe, Grosse Pointe Farms, Grosse Pointe Park, Grosse Pointe Woods, Hamtramck, Harper Woods and Highland Park, and the Village of Grosse Pointe Shores.
DETROIT – Yesterday, downtown Detroit security officers walked off the job in an unfair labor practice strike to protest over threats of retaliation from their employer for trying to come together with coworkers for union rights and at least $15. In a show of solidarity with striking officers, SEIU Local 1 janitors and members of Detroit Metro AFL-CIO affiliates did not cross the picket lines, refusing to clean and service affected buildings. Following, a number of 2020 presidential candidates expressed their support for the security officers in their fight for union rights and at least $15:
“Every worker in this country deserves the dignity that comes with fair wages and benefits — and the right to collectively bargain. I’m proud to stand with Detroit security officers today as they fight for a $15 minimum wage and union rights. #OneDetroit” -Former Vice President of the United States Joe Biden
“It’s a shame that the people who are often first in line to protect their city are not offered protection of their own in the form of fair wages & workers’ rights. I am proud to support downtown Detroit security officers in their fight for union rights. #OneDetroit #FightFor15.” – Sen. Cory Booker (D-NJ)
“All working people have a right to form a union in a fast and fair process. I am proud to support downtown Detroit security officers, who are committed to doing whatever it takes to win union rights and at least $15 an hour. #OneDetroit.” – Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-VT)
“As we commemorate the 30th anniversary of #JusticeforJanitors, let’s remember the fight for worker equality is alive today and needs our support. I stand with #OneDetroit and the downtown security officers. We must stand together with workers to hold corporations accountable.” –Sen. Kamala Harris (D-CA)
“I stand in solidarity with Detroit security officers in their #FightFor15 and their right to a union. #OneDetroit #StandforSecurity.” – Rep. Eric Swalwell (D-CA 15th District)
“I stand with Detroit security officers in their fight to protect their right to a union and at least $15 an hour #FightFor15 #OneDetroit #StandforSecurity” – Rep. Tim Ryan (D-OH 13th District)
“Detroit security officers have a right to form a union. I stand with them. #OneDetroit #StandforSecurity” – Gov. Steve Bullock (D-MT)
Service Employees International Union Local 1 unites 50,000 workers throughout the Midwest, including janitors, security officers, airport workers, 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.
Every year, Local 1 awards college scholarships across the Midwest to members and their children because no matter our background, we all want a better future for our families. Congratulations to all of our scholarship winners!