600 Rhode Island Janitors Poised to Strike
Monday, September 24, 2012
Approximately 14,000 New England janitors – 600 in Rhode Island— will go on strike if a new contract isn’t reached before Sept. 30, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) announced over the weekend.
“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.
According to Rachel Miller, a campaign support specialist for the Rhode Island union, janitors clean some of the most prosperous companies in the state, including many of downtown Providence's financial services offices, Citizens Bank and Bank of America offices and GTECH as well as FM Global and T.F. Green.
The SEIU claims many janitors are offered only 20 hours a week and in some locations, their pay is nearly $500 less than the average regional rent of $1,796 and barely above the federal poverty guideline. The union says they are seeking better pay, more hours on the job and healthcare for workers, but janitors and contractors were still far apart from reaching an agreement before the contract expires next Sunday.
According to an SEIU press release, janitors in large downtown Boston buildings clean the equivalent of 15 single-family homes every night, but the union maintains their wages are not enough to make ends meet.
Ten years ago this Fall, Boston janitors staged a highly visible strike that drew national attention to their cause and ultimately won created more jobs as a result of the strike.
The potential strike would come less than two week after two high profile unions –the Communications Workers of America and the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers— reached an agreement with Verizon that covers 45,000 members from Virginia to New England after going 14 months without a contract and staging a strike last year.
Editor's Note: The original version of this story included an incorrect number of Rhode Island janitors who are set to strike.
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