[UPDATE: SEIU Local 1 St. Louis janitors have ratified a strong new contract with historic raises and better benefits. The new three-year agreement, which covers 2,100 janitors, will put $15.3 million into the local economy, strengthening communities across the region. Look for the full story in the Feb. 13, 2020 print edition of the Labor Tribune.]
By TIM ROWDEN
St. Louis – SEIU Local 1 janitors have reached a tentative contract agreement after voting last week to authorize a strike.
The strike vote was announced on Jan. 30 as contract negotiations for the 2,100 janitors entered the final scheduled day. On the evening of Jan. 31, the SEIU Local 1 bargaining team announced they had reached a tentative agreement.
SEIU Local 1 spokesman Nick Desideri said the janitorial bargaining team reached a tentative agreement with contractors, the details of which were not revealed.
“Janitors will vote on whether to accept the tentative agreement in the coming days,” Desideri said.
STRIKE VOTE FOLLOWED EARLIER ARRESTS
“I’m struggling to support my daughter on $10 an hour, which isn’t enough to put food on the table,” said SEIU Local 1 janitor Keosha Gowan, a CleanTech janitor who cleans Express Scripts in North County and voted to strike along with her fellow janitors to win the strong new contract they need to support their families.
The strike announcement came after CleanTech janitors, joined by community allies and St. Louis Alderwoman Megan Green (15th Ward ), were arrested in civil disobedience outside US Bank Plaza on Jan. 27.
Joined by St. Louis City Treasurer Tishaura Jones, Alderwoman Green, State Representative Wiley Price (House District 84), Representative Jay Mosley (House District 68), UNITE HERE Local 74, United Autoworkers, Planned Parenthood, SEIU Missouri/Kansas healthcare workers, the United Media Guild, Missouri Jobs with Justice, St. Louis County NAACP President John Bowman, Show Me $15 fast food workers, religious and community leaders gathered at the corner of 7th and Market streets for a rally, then marched to US Bank at Washington Avenue and 7th Street where about 20 joined hands in a sit-in that blocked the street until they were arrested by St. Louis police – demonstrating their commitment to do whatever it would take to secure a livable wage and a good union contract.
FIGHTING FOR ‘ONE ST. LOUIS’
Janitors have been fighting under the banner of One St. Louis – a region where all working families can support themselves with at least a $15 wage and good union jobs. Their fight is in line with the Ferguson Commission’s recommendations to enact a $15 wage to give working people the opportunity to thrive.
Cleaning prominent St. Louis-region buildings, like the St. Louis County facilities, U.S. Bank Plaza, Peabody Plaza, Express Scripts, Bayer, Boeing, One Metropolitan Square, the Wells Fargo Building, BJC Healthcare and more, janitors say they have been struggling to raise their families on wages as low as $10-an-hour, with many relying on public assistance just to make ends meet.
Treasurer Jones’ office, BJC Healthcare and Washington University in St. Louis have already put thousands of direct employees on the path to a $15 wage. Both the St. Louis Board of Aldermen and St. Louis County Council have passed resolutions supporting janitors negotiating for a $15 wage. St. Louis Mayor Lyda Krewson signed an executive order on Jan. 17 establishing a new $15-an-hour minimum wage for all St. Louis civil service employees.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page, last week, announced steps to raise wages for all non-seasonal, full-time county employees and contracted employees to $13 an hour as soon as possible and to move employees to a $15 minimum wage by 2022.
St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announces
minimum wage increase for county workers
As negotiations for 2,100 SEIU Local 1 janitors continued last week, with janitors voting to authorize a strike if they were not able to reach a fair contract, St. Louis County Executive Sam Page announced steps the County is taking to improve pay for low-wage St. Louis County employees and move toward a $15 minimum wage by 2022.
“I appreciate Dr. Page for standing with St. Louis County working families by putting County workers, including contracted ones like me, on a path to $15,” said SEIU Local 1 CleanTech janitor Geraldine Spencer, who cleans the St. Louis County Government Center. “This will go a long way towards helping working families pay the bills and strengthening communities across the region. It’s a big step in the right direction.”
Page said the County has begun the process of increasing wages for its lowest-wage workers by implementing a new minimum wage for all non-seasonal, full-time employees and contracted employees, raising all wages to at least $13-an-hour as soon as possible, with yearly increases to gradually raise the minimum wage for county employees to $15 by 2022.
The incremental approach will allow the County to identify other cost savings that can be implemented to offset the increased out-of-pocket cost for the higher minimum, Page said.
“St. Louis County employees remain the strongest asset we have as we work toward better government,” Page said. “As part of my promise to make government work better for everyone, it is my duty to ensure that the people we rely on every day are compensated fairly for their work.”
Employee salaries that are not considered part the low-wage category are also being evaluated.
Page said County directors will convene a working group to identify County employees who have not received raises in recent years from the proceeds of Proposition P or other sources, identify a fair raise for employees who have only received a nominal increase, and identify costs and possible funding mechanisms for the County to afford the increases.
The County announcement came as negotiations for 2,100 SEIU Local 1 janitors entered the last scheduled day on Thursday, Jan. 30, with janitors voting to authorize a strike, if necessary to reach a fair contract. The janitors reached a tentative agreement with contractors on Jan 31.