Region’s Elected Officials Stand with Cleaning Workers, Urge Industry Leaders to Avoid a Strike

Monday, October 3, 2011


– Elected Officials Take Their Stand as Office Cleaners Announce Authorization to Strike –

Washington, DC—Elected officials from the District, Montgomery County, and Northern Virginia today took a stand for nearly 12,000 of the region’s office cleaners, calling on industry leaders to agree to a fair contract for the workers and avoid a strike that could hurt the region. The public officials made their announcement days after the region’s cleaning workers voted to authorize their union’s bargaining committee to call a strike, if necessary. Speakers at today’s event noted that its venue – on Pennsylvania Avenue – has the fifth-highest office rent in North America.

“I urge building owners in the District to sign a fair contract for our city’s cleaners and avoid an unnecessary strike,” said DC Councilmember Phil Mendelson.

“Arlington’s strong commercial office market should create the kind of good jobs necessary to boost our economy and increase tax revenue for local governments,” said Virginia State Senator Mary Margaret Whipple. “I will support Virginia’s hard-working office cleaners if they have to strike to provide for their families.”

Last week, 32BJ rejected proposals from cleaning contractors for the region’s real estate industry that would: fail to make 1,000 part-time commercial cleaners full-time with health benefits, lower starting wages for newly hired cleaners in Washington and Northern Virginia, and reduce other benefits for all cleaners in the District.

“Paying cleaners family-sustaining wages and benefits would help ensure that employers and tenants get a more reliable work force,” said Montgomery County Council President, Valerie Ervin. “Nobody wants a strike, but I stand in solidarity with cleaners if that’s what it takes to keep good jobs that are the lifeblood of our communities.”

Negotiations began September 8th for a new union contract covering more than 12,000 cleaners in the region – 5,000 in Washington, D.C., nearly 4,000 in Northern Virginia, over 1,500 in Montgomery County, Md., and more than 700 in Baltimore.

“There’s no excuse for a multibillion dollar industry to deny the wages and benefits workers need to make ends meet,” 32BJ SEIU Capital Area Director, Jaime Contreras said.

Under the current contract, wages range from $9 per hour for 9,600 part-time cleaners to $12.60 per hour for 2,400 full-time cleaners. All of the cleaners receive up to seven sick days, paid vacation and holidays, life insurance, and employer-paid family benefits for prescription drugs, dental and vision benefits. Only full-time cleaners receive employer-paid health care. The industry’s proposal would eliminate two paid holidays for cleaners in the District, and lower starting wages for new cleaners in the District and Northern Virginia. It would also fail to meet 32BJ’s call to make 1,000 part-time cleaners full time with health benefits.

Commercial cleaners in the Washington-area are among more than 60,000 from Hartford, Conn. to Virginia who are united in a campaign to secure new contracts that raise wage and benefit standards.

With more than 120,000 members in nine states, including 16,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.