Washington, D.C. 32BJ SEIU’s 10,500 commercial office cleaners in the D.C. area and Baltimore have ratified a new four-year contract with the Washington Service Contractors Association, which represents the area's major commercial cleaning companies.
By the end of the contract the overwhelmingly immigrant workforce will receive an hourly pay increase of up to $2.50 and additional sick days and holidays. The contract protects health care and other benefits while increasing access to full-time hours in both Montgomery County and Arlington, allowing workers to earn more money and access employer-paid health insurance, potentially saving public healthcare programs millions of dollars. In addition to raising wages and benefits from existing cleaners, the contract expanded to cover 400 new cleaners in Prince George’s County, MD and Loudoun County, VA.
“These hard-working janitors used their collective power to improve their jobs and lives, just like other low-wage workers deserve locally and nationwide," said 32BJ SEIU Vice President, Jaime Contreras. “Their successful fight for livable wages and benefits is a blueprint for how labor’s resurgence can help rebuild the middle class.”
"We won a really strong contract that's going to change people's lives," said, Miriam Pineda, a cleaner working in Bethesda and lives in Silver Spring as a single mother and the sole provider for her grandchildren. “I was struggling to feed my grandchildren and putting my faith in God to get health insurance. Full-time hours would mean a world of difference, it would mean more money to help me catch up with bills and health care so I could get breast cancer screenings."
Under the contract, janitors continue to have access to free professional training and language courses as well as legal services for immigration, family and matrimonial matters, and housing law among others. Full-time cleaners in all regions will maintain employer-paid health care, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and life insurance. Part-time cleaners will continue to receive life insurance and family dental benefits.
32BJ reached the agreement just hours before the October 15th expiration, averting a strike which could have impacted over 1,200 office buildings throughout the region. Janitors led an intensive campaign that included 16 separate strike vote rallies over a two-week period throughout D.C., Montgomery County, Northern Virginia and Baltimore. As part of a large push, D.C. Mayor, Muriel Bowser rallied with janitors, who marched through downtown D.C. during rush hour two weeks in a row.
In addition to support from numerous community groups, janitors rallied with D.C. Council Chair Phil Mendelson, D.C. Council members Elissa Silverman, Charles Allen and Brianne Nadeau, Baltimore City Council members Shannon Sneed and Ryan Dorsey, Montgomery County Councilmember Hans Reimer, Virginia State Senator Barbara Favola, Arlington County Attorney nominee, Parisa Dehghani-Tafti and Fairfax County Board of Supervisors candidate, Dalia Palchik.
The contract covers over 4,000 in D.C., over 4,000 in Northern Virginia, 1,500 in Montgomery County, 600 in Baltimore and 400 in Prince George’s and Loudoun Counties. With more than 173,000 members in 11 states, including 20,000 in the D.C. area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.