A union representing thousands of Twin Cities janitors will strike next week.
The Service Employees International Union Local 26, which represents about 4,000 commercial janitors that staff several prominent high-rises in downtown Minneapolis, on Thursday announced plans to hold a one-day strike during the week of Feb. 24.
"We will be striking next week sometime," said Iris Altamirano, president of SEIU Local 26. "There's no pulling this back. That train is well on its way to striking."
Union members say they want a contract with higher wages and more sick days, as well as a commitment to fight climate change. Iris Altamirano, president of SEIU Local 26, said the union is seeking an annual wage increase of $1.50 per hour over the next four years. The cleaning companies, meanwhile, countered with a proposal to raise wages by $1.50 per hour over the entirety of the four-year contract, she said.
"For four months, there hasn't been the necessary movement to even get close to a deal," Altamirano said. "The companies have rejected just about everything we've proposed."
The union will meet with the employers for more negotiations on Feb. 28. Three additional negotiation sessions have been scheduled for the week after that.
The janitors' contract expired in late December, but the Local 26 agreed to an extension during ongoing negotiations.
"We gave them the courtesy in late December to extend our contract by a month, ensuring we wouldn't strike, so we could see if we could get this deal done," Altamirano said. "It still hasn't happened."
In addition to pay increases, SEIU is asking cleaning subcontractors to establish a “green training program,” which would provide resources to help janitors reduce the environmental impact of their jobs. Workers that complete the green training program would see a 20-cent bump in pay, Altamirano said.
SEIU Local 26 members work for several different subcontractors, including ABM and Marsden Services. The union’s members clean the IDS Center, Capella Tower, the Wells Fargo Center, and several other large corporate centers in the area. The union voted to authorize the strike earlier this month.
It's not yet clear what the strike will mean for office buildings in downtown Minneapolis and elsewhere in the metro. John Nesse, an attorney who represents the cleaning companies, said that the employers have contingency plans in place. Nesse represents a group of 10 different employers, and each will handle the situation differently.
"Replacement workers are one of the options," Nesse said. "There are a lot of different ways to handle it."
Last week, Nesse, an attorney who represents the cleaning contractors told TCB that the employers will likely agree to some kind of wage increase in the next contract. The disagreement is over how much.
Meanwhile, another division of the Local 26 has reached an agreement on a four-year contract for about 2,000 security guards in the Twin Cities. The new pact calls for a 14 percent increase over the length of the contract, along with “other gains,” the union said in a news release.