PHILADELPHIA – Office cleaners in Philadelphia and Pittsburgh are negotiating new contracts that could set the stage for workers up and down the East Coast.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney will join more than a thousand workers tomorrow as building cleaners in Philadelphia rally for a new contract. In both Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, representatives of large building owners and contractors are negating new agreements with 5,000 members of Local 32BJ Service Employees International Union.
Vincent Jones is a building cleaner working at Jefferson Tower in Philadelphia and a member SEIU 32BJ. He says employers have proposed dramatic cuts to workers’ benefits despite the biggest real-estate boom in decades.
“I’ve been a union member and an employee for about 20 years now, and I’ve seen it go from bad to good,” says Jones. “And we just want to be compensated fairly for the work we’ve done and are going to continue to do.”
The union says what happens in Pennsylvania could impact more that 75,000 workers on the East Coast bargaining for contracts this year.
Jones adds that some of the big contractors operate in multiple cities and several states.
“I believe that everything is contingent upon what we do, and that if we obtain a good contract it will trickle down to everyone else,” says Jones.
32BJ says East Coast building workers represent the largest private-sector contract negotiations in the country.
Jones notes that when workers earn a living wage and keep up with the rising cost of living, they are not the only ones who benefit.
“It will mean a lot to the community, because as we get more income we can help boost the economy even more as we shop in the city and these new businesses that seem to be popping up,” says Jones.
The current contracts for Philadelphia and Pittsburgh building cleaners expire in October.