August 1, 2008 Volume 109 Number 15

SEIU Local 49 finalizes contracts covering 1,900 Portland janitors

Service Employees (SEIU) Local 49 in July finalized two contracts covering about 1,900 of the Portland-area’s 2,300 union janitors. A master agreement with nine employers covers 1,700 workers, and a first-ever contract with a local ServiceMaster franchise covers about 200 employees.

The four-year master agreement includes employer-provided health insurance for janitors’ children, for the first-time, with employees paying $40 of the monthly premium. The employee-only portion of the insurance is fully-paid by the employer. Top hourly wages will rise $1.85 over the four years, from $10.60 to $12.45. Newly hired janitors start at 40 cents above minimum wage and reach the top of the scale after two years. The starting wage was 20 cents above minimum in the previous contract, which expired June 30. Workers also get one new paid “personal day” a year besides the seven paid holidays they had.

Members voted 542-16 to approve the new master agreement, which covers eight janitorial contractors, plus the non-profit Portland Habilitation Center.

The contract with the ServiceMaster franchise brings to a close a three-year union recognition campaign. During the campaign, janitors and their supporters held frequent pickets outside offices cleaned by the contractor, including buildings owned by Melvin Mark Companies. In the end, the employer agreed to grant union recognition on the basis of majority sign-up, and negotiated a contract that is similar to the master agreement, except that it starts with lower wages and benefits, catching up over the first three years. At that point the two sides will negotiate over wages in the final year.

Union contractors are in the higher end of the building services market — Class A commercial office buildings in downtown Portland and Vancouver, plus Intel in Hillsboro. Local 49 estimates that union contractors have 76 percent, by square footage, of the downtown Portland Class A market, said organizer Maggie Long.


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