The COVID-19 pandemic has changed patterns of life for people across Massachusetts and brought about situations that were previously hard to imagine. Add one more to the list: a labor union and management singing from the same hymn sheet.
The influential union 32BJ SEIU and the Maintenance Contractors of New England announced Tuesday morning that the two sides have agreed to a one-year extension of the 2016-2020 master contract that includes more than 14,000 janitors who clean commercial office buildings and public spaces in Massachusetts and Rhode Island. The union called it "a moment of employer and labor unity" and said the contract includes custodians who keep the State House clean.
"The pandemic has forced all of us on both sides of the table to unite around economic stability and workplace safety as the Bay State slowly reopens," Roxana Rivera, vice president of 32BJ SEIU, said. "Our commercial cleaners come from some of the most impacted communities in our state — they are primarily immigrants and people of color living in places that have been ravaged by the disease, such as Chelsea, Lynn, and Mattapan. Right now, they need stability and collaboration with management, and I'm very pleased that the Contractors Association agrees. By coming together, we will do our part to make the Bay State’s working families safe and secure as we fight this terrible disease."
The contract was due to expire in September, but will instead be extended through Sept. 30, 2021. Officials said the extension will allow the union and management to "strategize together on protecting the health and safety of all" as the state's four-phase reopening plan unfolds and keeps the union's health care benefits in place at a time when access to care is a high priority.
"We are glad that this agreement will enable the industry to continue and maintain our focus on providing our clients with the services they need in this unprecedented moment as well as to ensure the stability they and our employees depend upon," Michael White of the Maintenance Contractors of New England said.