Janitors union nears strike

By Chelsea Sheasley, Metro West Daily News

BOSTON – Janitors who clean the corporate headquarters of Bose, Genzyme, TJ Maxx and other major MetroWest-based companies are ready to strike on Monday if negotiations for a new contract aren’t successful.

The contract for roughly 14,000 janitors in Massachusetts, Rhode Island and New Hampshire expires on Sept. 30. Over the weekend, union members authorized their negotiating committee to call a strike if the deadline is reached without a new contract.

The last time the janitor’s union went on strike was in 2002, when a four-week strike drew national attention.

“Everyone is ready for the strike because everybody needs better jobs and better hours too,” said Rafael Cruz, a janitor at Genzyme’s headquarters in Framingham and member of the union’s negotiating committee.

Cruz, who moved to Massachusetts from Puerto Rico in 2000, cleans the company’s headquarters four hours a night. He’s worked there for one year.

“I work in the morning at a separate job and I work part time in the night because I have the one son at school at the university and I need to support my son,” Cruz said.

Cruz, who moved from Framingham to Worcester because Framingham rents were too high, drives 60 miles in the morning to a job in Franklin. He has four children between the ages of 12 and 21, including a son studying at UMass-Amherst.

Cruz’s biggest concerns for the contract negotiations are more work hours and better benefits.

“Not for me only, for every employee who works in this company because 90 percent of the people is part time right now.”

On Wednesday, eight Massachusetts unions and Steven Tolman, president of the Massachusetts AFL-CIO, pledged their support for the janitors union, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 615. he union is negotiating for increased hours and expanded access to employer-paid health care coverage.

“Employers don’t want to discuss how two-thirds of our members rely on the state’s health care coverage. They should have a better way to see that they can have employer-paid health insurance,” said Rocio Saenz, president of SEIU Local 615.

But the Maintenance Contractors of New England, which represents an association of cleaning companies in negotiating the contract, says that the union’s demand for more full-time jobs would cause significant layoffs.

“The hours of work in the New England building service industry are limited and finite,” the management group wrote in a press release. “The union’s proposed terms would result in layoffs of thousands of part-time employees who rely on good paying jobs that currently pay $15.95 an hour.”

In order to convert all part-time janitors to full-time positions as the union wants, Maintenance Contractors calculates that 1,189 part-time employees would be laid off in downtown Boston and 2,352 in suburban Massachusetts. That means 9 percent of the 12,734 janitors under contract would be laid off downtown and 18 percent would lose their jobs in the suburbs.

“There is a finite amount of work that is done with a large amount of people doing it,” said Maintenance Contractors spokesman Matt Ellis.

Link to the original article: http://www.metrowestdailynews.com/news/x422898755/Janitors-union-nears-strike

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