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Houston’s Convention Center Janitors Have Better Working Conditions In New Contract

They will earn $9.35 an hour starting in January. Paid vacation, paid holidays and paid sick days are some other gains they have achieved.

 

In December 2014, María García rallied demanding better working conditions for her and the rest of the janitors who work at Houston's George R. Brown convention center.
In December 2014, María García rallied demanding better working conditions for her and the rest of the janitors who work at Houston’s George R. Brown convention center. (Photo: Courtesy of SEIU Texas)

Just last week, the janitorial workers of Houston's George R. Brown Convention Center ratified a new contract they had been negotiating for months.

The Texas chapter of the Service Employees International Union – better known as SEIU – represented the workers at the bargaining table with Omaha-based Midwest Maintenance. Thanks to the new contract, the GRB janitors will have the same wages as those who work at Houston's office buildings: $9.35 an hour starting in January.

Paid vacation, paid holidays and paid sick days are some other gains.

And paid sick days are pretty important.

"We were always working because, if we were sick, we couldn’t stay home because we didn’t get paid," says María García, who participated in the workers' bargaining committee.

SEIU spokeswoman Paloma Martínez explains the importance of the benefit.

"For many of the George R. Brown Convention Center worker this is something they may have never experienced in their life, being able to take a day off with pay if you have a cold, if you have a really bad illness and you don’t wanna infect your clients at the convention center," noted Martínez.

The fact Midwest will take care of washing the workers' uniforms is also an advantage for them. Until now, they had to do that on their own.

Medical insurance is one difference between this contract and the one office janitors have. Midwest did offer insurance, but the workers rejected it because they concluded it wasn't affordable.

SEIU says it remains a goal for future negotiations.

For García, "it’s important we get medical insurance because we also need it."

Midwest Maintenance did not respond to our request for comment for this story.

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