Up to 200 union janitors and supporters rallied and marched in downtown Portland June 15 to demand raises — and paid sick days — from their employer group. The contract covering 1,700 janitors at eight companies expires June 30, and the two sides are not close to agreement: Service Employees International Union Local 49 is calling for a $1 an hour raise in each year of the four year agreement, while the multi-employer negotiating group is proposing a total raise of 38 cents an hour — in the final two years of the contract. Local 49 is also proposing that workers get six paid sick days; currently they have none.
Local 49 bargaining team member Angel Moo, who cleans Intel for SBM, said in Spanish that the rally was a show of force, demonstrating that janitors are united.
It was also an impressive show of support from city and county elected leaders: Portland Mayor Sam Adams and Commissioner Amanda Fritz were there in support, and so were Multnomah County Chair Jeff Cogen and Commissioner Deb Kafoury. Also there were both candidates for Portland mayor — Jefferson Smith and Charlie Hales — plus Mary Nolan, candidate for City Commissioner. Adams, Kafoury, Smith and Hales even donned the union’s purple and white t-shirt. Both the city and the county employ union-signatory janitorial contractors.
Janitors make $9.20 to $12.45 an hour under Local 49’s current four-year contract, and got health insurance for their children for the first time, for which they pay $40 a month.
The march and rally were the public kickoff of the janitors’ campaign for a contract. More details about the campaign are available at the campaign web site.
[UPDATE: Local 49 reported June 25 that it reached an agreement with janitorial contractors that includes wage increases, one paid sick day, and other worksite protections. The four-year agreement raises wages by $1 an hour.]