Mass. Janitors Closer To Strike

BOSTON — A group of unionized janitors, represented by Local 615 of the Service Employees International Union, voted Saturday to authorize a strike if they are unable to reach a new agreement with employers before their contract expires at the end of the month.

The unanimous vote came amid an energetic rally, calling for benefits and higher wages. Union leaders said many janitors are kept just below the threshold of 29 hours a week needed to qualify for health benefits.

“Hard work has to provide dignified wages and benefits that will allow you to support your family,” said Rocio Saenz, president of Local 615 of the SEIU.

The union also cited reports of workers being met with illegal threats and intimidation.

“We believe we made good progress at the bargaining table last week,” said Matt Ellis, spokesman for Maintenance Contractors of New England, which represents the contractors that employ the janitors. “We’re hopeful we’ll be able to make more progress when we get back to the table on Monday.”

Local 615 represents 18,000 property service workers — including 14,000 janitors — in Massachusetts, New Hampshire and Rhode Island. The union’s last strike was 10 years ago and lasted for one month.

The current contract for all 14,000 New England janitors is set to expire on Sept. 30.

With additional reporting by The Associated Press.

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    BTW, ROCIO, the President for the SEIU Local 615, has only
    showed up for ONE MEETING, umm hello, who does she thing she is, I think it’s
    time she stepped down from her position if she can’t even show up for the
    MASTER CONTRACT MEETINGS!!??!! I’m not sure if 1000 of 14,000 members is an
    “overwhelming” amount of members ready to strike, in fact quite the
    opposite, number one, and number two, I don’t believe one job category, should
    equate full time to be considered 25 hours, the majority (from what I can see)
    of the information being falsely shoved down the public’s throat is untrue.
    These demands are just unreasonable, a part time job is a part time job, right now,
    as it stands janitors, cleaners, etc., and have full time at 30 HOURS!!! And
    that’s not good enough, and wait, do they pay for this, NO, they receive health
    care paid for IN FULL by the employer, and now they want the employers to pay
    IN FULL for anyone who works 25 hours, I’m sorry, the only job classification
    that should even be considered for something like this should be civil service
    (police/fire) and teachers, do I bare sympathy because the cleaners are not
    getting a full time job classified at 25 hours, NOPE, do I think $15.95 an hour
    is more than fair, YES. Is the SEIU Local 615 acting in behalf of its members
    best interests, NOPE, if they were the would be negotiating Initiation Fees
    comparable to pay rate, en employee making less living and working in NH.
    $10.30/hr. is forced to pay the same staggering fee, as someone making $15.95
    an hours. Let me ask you this, the SEIU Local 615 Elected Officials pay themselves
    combined an annual salary of $5,000,000.00, (according to UNIONFACTS.COM they
    also have thousands of dollars spent annually in costs labeled “official
    business” BUT, as of 2010 they had ZERO dollars in their strike fund, Strikes can pose significant hardships for
    employees as union strike funds usually compensate members for far less than 50
    percent of the wages lost during a strike (10-20 percent is most common). In
    order to collect that fraction of their pay, they are often required to
    participate in a picket line. The potential loss of pay and hardship suffered
    warrants input from a majority of affected employees before any strikes are

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