Thirty janitors who clean Washington County buildings are celebrating a victory after waging a campaign to keep good union jobs in the county. Employed by Relay Resources, the janitors were in danger of losing their jobs when the county announced their intention to terminate its 30+ year contract with Relay Resources and seek bids for a new janitorial contractor.
Relay Resources is a qualified rehabilitation facility, or QRF, which is a non-profit that employs workers with qualifying disabilities to provide products and services to public agencies. The janitors, who are members of SEIU Local 49, testified before the Washington County Board of Commissioners several times. They shared their stories and urged the Board to choose a union janitorial contractor that would commit to hiring the displaced Relay Resources workers who depend on their union jobs for health insurance and good wages.
Manuela Calderon, a pregnant Relay Resources janitor was approaching her due date, also testified on the need to continue her employment and the pressing need for good health coverage. “I have tuberculosis and Kaiser has an eight-month treatment plan to ensure that it remains dormant. I was going to start it after I give birth. But without insurance, I wouldn’t be able to.”
“I’m very thankful to have this job because of the health insurance,” said janitor Guadalupe Torres. “I recently had an operation to remove a pilar cyst from my scalp. Without insurance, this would have been too expensive.”
The janitors’ persistence and willingness to share their personal stories paid off. On April 3, 2018, the Washington County Board of Commissioners voted to award the janitorial contract to a responsible union contractor, ABM Onsite Services.
Washington County’s transition from one responsible union contractor to another will provide stability and security for the county’s long-term janitors who will now be guaranteed a continuance of the good wages and healthcare that they and their families have relied upon for so many years. This decision will also ensure that the county’s tax dollars will provide for high quality services with increased worker training and lower worker turnover, thanks to the county’s investment in good jobs.
“My dream is to buy a house for my family,” said Torres. “If I would have had to work here for a company that pays less than what I’m earning now, we wouldn’t be able to afford it.”