BOSTON--()--By a standing voice vote, 1,000 janitors represented by SEIU Local 615 overwhelmingly voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike after many recent reports of workers being met with illegal threats and intimidation. The expiration date for 14,000 New England janitors is September 30th. Janitors and the contractors are still very far apart. Janitors are seeking more hours and company-provided healthcare.
“I have to work two jobs just to survive”
“I have to work two jobs just to survive,” said Jackie Wesley, a janitor in Waltham. “I work for two union companies. But neither gives me health insurance because I am not considered full-time.”
Janitors who are denied full-time work must apply for tax-funded state healthcare, rather than employer-provided health insurance.
Ten years ago this fall, janitors in Boston staged a highly visible strike that drew national attention to their cause and elicited a tremendous outpouring of political, community and religious support. They had a vision that, similar to other cities, janitorial jobs in Boston could be transformed into good jobs. Their victory resulted in important gains during that strike and subsequent contracts, including promises from the real estate industry to create more full-time jobs.
“The message today is crystal clear, like 2002, we are ready to strike to defend our rights,” said SEIU Local 615 President, Rocio Saenz. “Boston is the 6th most economically powerful city in the world. Rents are high, some of the highest in the nation. But the janitors who keep this city sparkling earn too little to make ends meet. That’s wrong,” continued Saenz.
Full-time work can mean the difference between a good, middle class job and living in poverty. Many janitors are offered only 20 hours a week— in the downtown area, their pay is nearly $500 less than the average regional rent of $1,796 and barely above the federal poverty guideline. Workers are working harder and having to supplement with other income just to make ends meet. Janitors in large downtown office buildings clean the equivalent of 15 single-family homes every night. Greater Boston now has an opportunity to go forward—more full-time jobs and stronger communities—instead of backward to poverty wage jobs that do not support their families and neighborhoods.