7/19/07

SEIU national janitor campaign arrives in Cincy

Next week could be make or break time for Greater Cincinnati's burgeoning "Justice for Janitors" movement to get better wages and benefits for the workers who clean area office buildings.

The local chapter of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) voted July 14 to authorize a strike if ongoing contract negotiations with cleaning companies aren't successful. Negotiations will next occur in a two-day session July 25-26, according to Lynda Tran, a union spokeswoman.

About 200 janitorial workers attended the strike authorization vote, and the vast majority favored granting the authority to local SEIU leaders in a visual vote, Tran adds. The decision means the union representing more than 1,200 janitors who clean the majority of the region's office space could call for a strike at any time, if deemed necessary.

Janitors have been called "America's invisible workers" because they often perform their tasks in high-rise corporate office towers before white-collar employees arrive for the business day or after they have left.

SEIU has coordinated similar campaigns to organize janitors in various U.S. cities over the past few years including Boston, Indianapolis, Seattle and Houston. Without better wages and benefits for the workers, the United States is increasingly beginning to "resemble a Third World country," one union leader says.

The union's local chapter formed in December and has been negotiating with area cleaning companies since March.

Leaders are seeking increased pay and better access to health care for its members.

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