Twin Cities janitors strike for $15 minimum wage, more sick time

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Thousands of janitors in the Twin Cities are expected to walk off the job Wednesday afternoon, marking the first strike by sub-contracted union janitors in the Twin Cities in decades, the union says.

Members of the Services Employees International Union Local 26, which represents more than 4,000 people working for firms contracted to clean Twin Cities office buildings, voted last month to authorize an "unfair labor practices" strike if employers didn't improve the terms of a three-year contract for workers by Feb. 14.

That deadline has now passed, so union workers are going on a one-day strike in response to "stalling and delays" from employers, a news release says. Negotiations started back in October, and the previous contract expired Dec. 31, 2015.

Workers picketed at the Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport Wednesday morning, and again in the afternoon.

https://www.facebook.com/seiu26/videos/vb.243259240396/10156622152155397/?type=2

More people are expected to picket later in the day in downtown Minneapolis, St. Paul and at the headquarters of Medtronic, Best Buy and UnitedHealth Group, MPR News reports. The strike is expected to affect some of the area's "most prominent" workplaces, MinnPost says.

The public is invited to join striking janitors from 7-10 p.m. at the U.S. Bank Plaza (2nd Avenue and 6th Street) "to cap off this powerful day," the union said on Facebook.

Why they're striking

One of the main things workers are fighting for is a $15 an hour minimum wage for all workers. Currently, some part-time SEIU janitors make as little as $11 an hour, a news release noted.

“At a time of increasing wealth for a small few, we are fighting for a fair contract that will not only help our families, but start to roll back the racial and economic inequalities facing our state,” Brahim Kone, a St. Paul janitor and leader of the bargaining team that's going on strike, said in a news release.

John Nesse, a lawyer who is negotiating for the cleaning companies who contract SEIU janitors, told the Star Tribune companies have offered to raise full-time workers' pay above $15 an hour over three years, but not the part-timers'.

The union is also calling for a fix to a “growing workload crisis” – janitors clean the equivalent of 20 houses per night, the union says – and policies to help support healthy families, like increasing the number of paid sick days janitors get, a release said.

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