Oregon Janitors Win Strong Union Contract After Heroic Frontline Efforts During Pandemic

ps-janitor-contract-victory-1The essential frontline janitors who cleaned and sanitized our public, private, and technology buildings during the pandemic have reached an agreement with various management companies under a new Union master contract which provides the highest wage raises in recent history, protects healthcare benefits, includes COVID protections, workload and immigration improvements, and access to a green training and education fund. 

Nearly 2,000 janitors who are SEIU Local 49 members were united to address inequities in pay, healthcare, COVID protections, and workload and immigration issues. Janitors are a majority immigrant, people of color, and women-led workforce, and winning improvements on racial justice and equity issues were key to offset the disproportionate impacts of COVID-19, gentrification, and racial discrimination. 

“We put our lives on the line during this pandemic and remained united to win wage increases, training for green jobs, and affordable healthcare. We cannot safely do the essential work that we do without a strong contract,” says Santa Gonzalez, a janitor who cleans at Nike headquarters. “I was one of the first ones to get more involved in our Union, and I’ve seen real changes. The contract we won this year is one of our strongest yet and I’m proud of the work we do every day to keep our communities safe and healthy.” 

Janitors are the first line of defense against the current global pandemic and have carried the burden of keeping our communities safe during COVID-19. Frontline workers have faced unprecedented challenges during the pandemic, including increased risk to their own health and their families while continuing to show up to care for their communities. Janitors won a strong Union contract that will keep money in the local economy through wage increases, improving healthcare costs, and providing access to training and education funding. SEIU 49 estimates this agreement may invest more than $58 million into Oregon’s Black, brown, and immigrant communities.

As Portland begins the work to reopen safely, our community depends on janitors to clean and sanitize the largest buildings in our city, so that tenants can feel safe to come back to work and businesses see the return of customers. Janitors play a key role in helping us return to a vibrant downtown Portland and are one of the most important resources we have. By making sure that janitors and security officers are respected, protected, and paid, employers are investing in our communities.

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