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GRB Convention Center Janitors Want A Raise In 2018 And Ask City’s Entity To Support Them Actively

SEIU Texas, which represents the workers, says they want to earn $11.10/hour next year

About a dozen janitors asked the board of the Houston First Corporation to help them get a raise in 2018.
Photo by Eli Magaña / SEIU Texas
About a dozen janitors asked the board of the Houston First Corporation to help them get a raise in 2018.

About a dozen janitors asked Tuesday the board of the local government’s Houston First Corporation to help them get a raise of $1.75 per hour in 2018, to $11.10, according to Houston First and the Texas chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), which represents the workers.

The janitors, which SEIU Texas says amount to approximately 100 people, work at the George R. Brown (GRB) Convention Center and other facilities managed by Houston First, such as the Jones Hall for the Performing Arts and the Wortham Theater Center.

Houston First is an entity the City of Houston created back in 2011, when Annise Parker was mayor, and it is tasked with managing several city venues, including the GRB.

The janitors want Houston First to increase what it pays Omaha-based Midwest Maintenance through a contract for janitorial services. Eli Magaña, spokesman for SEIU Texas, said that the union believes that if Midwest gets more money through its contract with Houston First, it would be in a position to offer a raise to the janitors. For something like that to happen, the Houston City Council would have to approve it.

The janitors –half of whom, approximately, are immigrants— are currently earning $9.35 per hour and according to Magaña the union has been negotiating a new contract with Midwest Maintenance since March. Although the raise the janitors are asking for would be from $9.35 per hour to $11.10 per hour next year, ultimately their goal is to earn $12 per hour by 2019.

In a statement, the corporation stressed that “(...) Though Houston First does have a contract for janitorial services with Midwest Maintenance, Houston First is not a party to the negotiations, nor an employer of the janitorial workers.”

“Houston First remains hopeful that the negotiations between Midwest and SEIU Texas will move forward and a contract agreement will be reached that is fair to everyone involved,” the statement added.

Mark Oldaker, president of Midwest Maintenance, said in an email that the negotiation with SEIU is “ongoing” and therefore he can't “comment on issues that are pending union ratification.”