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Janitors Join the Quest for $15 Wage

The Raise America campaign is part of the nationwide push for a $15 minimum wage. Credit: Otto Yamamoto/Flickr.
The Raise America campaign is part of the nationwide push for a $15 minimum wage. Credit: Otto Yamamoto/Flickr.
November 10, 2015

VALLEY FORGE, Pa. – Negotiations for a new work contract are underway between 1,400 commercial office cleaners and the owners of at least 170 buildings in the Philadelphia area.

The cleaners are part of the growing movement of workers demanding wages of at least $15 an hour. Daisy Cruz, area leader for the Mid-Atlantic District of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ, says it's part of a nationwide campaign.

"Our theme right now is 'Raise America,'" she says. "No family, no worker should be making wages that are poverty wages."

The current cleaning contract for the Philadelphia suburbs expires Dec. 15. Close to 135,000 SEIU janitors around the country will begin negotiating contracts over the next 15 months.

Many of the cleaners who began their negotiations last week work for some of the largest, and richest, pharmaceutical companies in the nation. According to Cruz, full-time janitors there make an average of $12.35 an hour, with health benefits.

"Pharmaceutical companies are doing very well, so it's a shame we even have to have this type of contract campaign," she says.

The union says raising base pay to $15 an hour will help workers support their families and their communities.

SEIU 32BJ is the largest property service workers union in the U.S., representing more than 120,000 workers.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - PA