Janitors in New Jersey ratify new contract; NYC cleaners reach tentative deal

Stephon Johnson | 1/7/2016, 11:59 a.m.
Close to 7,000 32BJ SEIU-affiliated cleaners and school custodians in New Jersey now have a new contract.
Janitor Pixabay

Close to 7,000 32BJ SEIU-affiliated cleaners and school custodians in New Jersey now have a new contract.

Workers approved the four-year deal days after a tentative agreement was reached with the New Jersey Contractors Association. The contract includes benefits, wage increases and ending a second-tier rate for new employees.

Negotiations between 32BJ SEIU and the NJCA began in mid-October, but initially there was no progress made. The lack of progress led workers Dec. 16 to vote in favor of a strike if both sides couldn’t reach a deal. On the same day, workers marched in the streets of Newark, N.J., to rally for a new contract. A tentative agreement was reached the next day.

Ederle Vaughn, a mother and cleaner who works at the Prudential Center in Newark, said the contract couldn’t have come at a better time.

“It feels really good to ratify this contract because it will give me and my family some financial security and good benefits over the next few years,” stated Vaughn. “This contract will make the holidays a little brighter for me and my three children.”

“This is a good contract that includes family-sustaining wages and maintains quality employer-paid benefits for our 7,000 commercial workers and their families,” added 32BJ Vice President and New Jersey State Director Kevin Brown. “But it’s not just 32BJ cleaners who will benefit. When workers earn enough to afford more than the basics, they put that money back into the economy. And fair wages help employers retain reliable and experienced employees.”

In New York City, 32BJ SEIU-affiliated office cleaners have reached a tentative, four-year deal with the Realty Advisory Board that is subject to ratification by members and the employer association. The deal would provide a 14.8 percent increase in wages and benefits for the life of the contract and maintains health care and retirement benefits.

“Just in time for the holidays, these workers will receive a wage increase that helps them pay the rent and put presents beneath the tree,” said 32BJ President Hector Figueroa in a statement. “These jobs are the bedrock of New York. They support families and communities across the city. We are proud of how we come together and win for working men and women when we bargain; our hope is to bring more and more low-wage workers to the table and continue to lift families and communities out of poverty and into the middle class.”

The deal covers the janitors who clean more than 1,300 buildings in Manhattan, the Bronx, Queens, Brooklyn and Staten Island and keep places such as Rockefeller Center, Dag Hammarskjold Plaza, the Chrysler, MetLife and Empire State buildings and 1 World Trade clean.

Negotiations for a new contract took a shorter amount of time, as it started in late November, but 5,000 workers voted to authorize the 32BJ bargaining committee to authorize a strike if they couldn’t reach a deal. These janitors also held a march of their own with 32BJ residential and security members to show unity.

“This contract builds on the good jobs union members have been fighting for over the years and will protect future workers as well,” said 32BJ Vice President and head of the Commercial Division Shirley Aldebol in a statement. “We’re proud to be part of the Raise America campaign across the country that is fighting to lift up janitors and all workers.”