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Contract talks open for 10,500 cleaners in Washington, Northern Virginia, Montgomery County & Baltimore

6/3/2015, 8:30 p.m. | Updated on 6/3/2015, 5:52 p.m.
Workers seek full-time hours for full paycheck as commercial offices sell for record-setting prices
Workers seek full-time hours for full paycheck as commercial offices sell for record-setting prices (Courtesy Photo)

— Negotiations will begin today for a new union contract covering over 4,000 commercial cleaners in Washington, D.C., nearly 4,000 cleaners in Northern Virginia, over 1,500 cleaners in Montgomery County, Maryland and 700 Baltimore cleaners. The union will present proposals focused on increasing worker access to full-time hours and thus, full-time income to representatives of commercial cleaning contractors who serve the area’s commercial real estate industry.

“Washington’s multi-billion dollar real estate industry can afford to allow hard-working cleaners the opportunity to earn full-time wages and affordable health care,” said Jaime Contreras, 32BJ Vice President and Capital Area Director. “We must ensure that these men and women don’t have to work multiple part-time jobs to make ends meet.”

Most janitors in D.C. have no choice but to accept part-time hours. No matter how many part-time jobs workers have, they often still don’t get employer-paid health care. Moreover, most are likely deprived of employer-provided health care if they fall below the 30 hour Affordable Care Act threshold. 32BJ has been discussing the possibility of mandating full-time hours with Council members in DC and Montgomery County.

“A strong contract will improve many things for working families and create better opportunities for our children,” said Oscar Vasquez, a Washington, D.C. cleaner.

“We are going to fight, united we are stronger,” said Victoria Dominguez who cleans offices in both D.C. and Northern Virginia.

Under the contract expiring at midnight on October 15th, 2015, 32BJ commercial cleaners earn wages ranging from $10.60 per hour for part-time cleaners to $14.60 for full-time cleaners. All full-time workers have employer-paid medical care and all part-time workers have life insurance and dental benefits.

Full-time cleaners in all regions have employer-paid health care, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and life insurance. Part-time cleaners have life insurance and family dental benefits. All cleaners have paid vacation, holidays and sick days.

As a result of a District of Columbia law, all D.C. cleaners have up to seven sick days.

Today marks the first bargaining session for 11 agreements, covering approximately 75,000 commercial cleaners on the East Coast in 32BJ and nearly 135,000 nationally under SEIU. With more than 145,000 members in nine states, including 17,000 in the D.C. Metropolitan Area, 32BJ SEIU is the largest property service workers union in the country.