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Justice for Janitors Marks 25 Years

Jaime Contreras, SEIU 32BJ vice president and capital area director, says commercial property cleaners have made progress in wages, but too many work part-time. Workers are rallying this week in Bethesda and Baltimore. Credit: SEIU 32BJ.
Jaime Contreras, SEIU 32BJ vice president and capital area director, says commercial property cleaners have made progress in wages, but too many work part-time. Workers are rallying this week in Bethesda and Baltimore. Credit: SEIU 32BJ.
June 15, 2015

BETHESDA, Md. – Today marks the 25th anniversary of the Justice for Janitors campaign, which was focused on fair wages and treatment for commercial building cleaners.

It's a campaign that is still underway as cleaners with SEIU 32BJ start new contract negotiations.

Workers will rally during rush hour in Bethesda at the Metro station Tuesday.

Jaime Contreras, 32BJ vice president, says there's progress to celebrate.

"We have come a long way where members now enjoy a decent salary, paid time-off, including sick leave,” he says. “If you work full-time you also have employer-paid health care, which is something a lot of workers don't have unless they organize into a labor union."

Contreras says in the new round of negotiations, the focus is on increasing worker access to full-time hours. Only about 30 percent of commercial cleaners in the Washington area are full-time.

Contreras says too many commercial property cleaners are trying to stitch together a living wage by working several part-time jobs where they don't have health care or time off.

One possibility the union is considering is seeking Montgomery County Council action to mandate full-time hours.

"One of the main goals in this contract is to create more full-time job opportunities for part-time members who currently don't enjoy the benefits that come along with full-time work," Contreras states.

In addition to more full-time opportunities, Contreras points to a need for increased wages for part-time and full-time workers, and establishment of a legal fund.

There are rallies planned throughout the region, including another one in Baltimore on Thursday.

Push back on the proposals has focused on increased costs for property owners.


Deborah Courson Smith/Deb Courson Smith, Public News Service - MD