Janitors to strike on Tuesday

SEIU Local 26 workers didn’t come to an agreement before deadline.

Brian Edwards

Twin Cities janitors will strike Wednesday for the first time in nearly 60 years.
Service Employees International Union Local 26 workers will hold a one-day strike to advocate for a $15 minimum wage and decreased workloads after failing to come to an agreement with their employers by a Feb. 14 deadline. The union has yet to release specific strike locations but announced that a community rally will be held at U.S. Bank Plaza  Wednesday night.
A rising workload increases the chance of workers getting hurt on the job, said Brahim Kone, a St. Paul janitor at Minnesota’s Department of Human Services. The union is focused on making sure a pay increase doesn’t mean more tasks for janitors.
“The biggest thing is the workload,” he said. “When the pay gets raised, the workload gets raised.”
Janitors clean, on average, the equivalent of about 20 houses per night, according to the SEIU press release on the strike. 
Right now, Kone said the union is working to contact as many janitors as possible to fill them in about the current state of negotiations.
John Nesse, an attorney who is the chief negotiator on behalf of the employers, said the businesses respect the workers’ right to strike and hope to reach an agreement in the next bargaining session on Monday. 
The union denied two dates the businesses suggested for resuming discussion this week, he said.
Employers previously offered the workers a raise that would put them above $15 per hour, Nesse said, adding that workers in the area already have an industry-leading benefit package.
“The union proposed raises of 20 to 40 percent at the beginning of negotiations, and they have not lowered that number,” he said.
Minneapolis retail janitors who organize under Centro de Trabajadores Unidos en Lucha are also planning to go on strike on Thursday.