Despite COVID, Janitors Win Major Improvements in Contract Extension

j4j-contract-extension_600pxBy sticking together and committing to fight to protect good janitorial jobs even in the midst of a pandemic, SEIU 49 janitors protected healthcare, secured additional sick days, and won our second-highest raises ever in a one-year contract extension!

During a health crisis like we’ve never seen, janitors have continued the critical work of keeping essential office buildings, airports, and healthcare facilities clean and safe–usually at very high personal risk to ourselves and our families. Janitors are proud of the work we do, and know that when we stand together, we have the power to win the pay, benefits, and on-the-job protections that we deserve. 

We were gearing up for major contract bargaining this year to win strong, new Master Janitorial and Relay Resources agreements, which cover 2000 SEIU 49 janitors who work in Oregon and SW Washington–but when the global pandemic hit, we had to shift gears. 

With social distancing measures, masks, and a crash-course in video conferencing technology in place, our bargaining teams took extraordinary steps to win a one-year contract extension that includes well-deserved pay raises, 5 days of paid sick leave, and no takeaways to our healthcare benefits. Janitors under the Master contract won additional COVID protections and safety precautions to help keep us safe while we’re working through the pandemic. 

santa-j4j-contractSanta Hernandez, a member of the bargaining team who works at Nike for ABM, expressed pride in the contract extension. “We accomplished something that is really great given the circumstances we are in today. The raises that we will get will help ease the pain as we struggle with the cost of everything going up. My coworkers are also really happy about the extra sick days and the new retirement accounts. They are seeing that if we take action with our union and stick together, we can accomplish a lot!”

“Keeping our healthcare benefits and winning the additional sick days is a big deal. A lot of us have asthma or other health issues, and we’ve really been affected by the additional chemicals we’ve been using to clean at the airport while we’re struggling to breathe with masks on,” said Linda Labis, a Relay Resources janitor who works at Portland International Airport. “Knowing we can take a day off if we need to take care of ourselves, and knowing we still have our healthcare benefits eases some of the stress.”

Our next step is to continue fighting for hazard pay. Along with SEIU janitors around the country, we’re taking action to call on the U.S. Senate to pass the HEROES Act to ensure we get the protective gear and hazard pay we need while we’re working to keep our facilities clean and our communities safe. 

When we return to the bargaining table next year, we’ll be pushing forward to win stronger raises, expanded paid sick leave, and a training fund that will open doors to green jobs and more job opportunities in our communities. We know we can do it, because our victory shows us that when we fight, we win!

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