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Union: Strong Middle Class = A Strong Virginia

September 6, 2011

RICHMOND, Va. - As millions of Americans return to work after celebrating Labor Day, a Virginia labor unions begins contract negotiations affecting almost 4000 janitorial workers, who clean more than 500 commercial buildings in Northern Virginia. Valarie Long, vice president of SEIU Local 32 BJ, says that, as Virginia's economy continues to improve, it's important not to lose sight of those who help keep the economic engine running.

"You have to have the folks who make that economy run. Service workers, our cleaners, security officers, continue to contribute to the tax base, contribute to their communities by making decent wages. Let's not have people be underemployed."

She says in a political climate where unions and the middle class seem to be bearing the brunt of attacks by politicians and corporate entities, it's time to change the focus.

"The lack of good jobs and a decline of the middle class will lead to a dangerous imbalance in our economy. We've already seen that; with union density going down, there's been a direct correlation to the middle class going down. This country needs a good middle class. Unions are part of the solution; they are not part of the problem."

Contract negotiations are set to begin this week between Local 32 BJ and the commercial real estate industry, on behalf of 60,000 East Coast workers who clean and maintain buildings located from Hartford, Connecticut, to Virginia.

Monique Coppola, Public News Service - VA