Tuesday AM October 27th, 2009

Union janitors in Houston this week begin negotiations for a new contract. Ed Mayberry reports.


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SEIUThe contract between Service Employees International Union and five janitorial companies expires November 20th.  The union represents some 3,200 janitors in Houston.  Beverly Ortiz is with the union. 
“You know what, what we’re looking for is a contract that brings justice to all parties, right?  And so we’re looking for the cleaning contractors, the workers and the community.  So here’s the things that we’re proposing: wage increases, because so many Houstonians are having trouble feeding their families.  We’re proposing easier access to healthcare because the healthcare crisis, we know, is hurting everyone right now in Houston.  And we’re proposing guaranteed increased hours, because the economy needs stable jobs that are full-time jobs.  So those are the main components that we’re looking at.”  

Building owners could cite the economy and fewer tenants in their counter-arguments.  SEIU led a month-long strike three years ago that blocked traffic in Houston intersections, leading to the three-year agreement that is about to expire.

“We improved on wages.  You know, we went from $5.15 to $7.75 now.  We improved hours from four to six hours in most buildings.  And then we, you know, the clinic–the clinic that has been opened that the janitors can go to and see a doctor any, you know, every day that they want to, to be able to be a lot better.  And respect, as well.  You know, there was a lot of stuff going on in the job sites that was not acceptable.  So all of these things were gains that we had the first time around.”     

The union is negotiating with ABM Industries, GCA Services Group, ISS Group, Pritchard Industries and Aztec Facilities Services—five companies that make up almost three-fourths of the commercial cleaning market in Houston. 

Ed Mayberry, KUHF-Houston Public Radio News.

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