Twin Cities janitors to strike for 24 hours starting Thursday afternoon

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SEIU Local 26 members vote to authorize strike
Members of the Service Employees International Union gather at a Minneapolis headquarters Saturday, Feb. 8. Union members are planning to rally in Minneapolis Thursday evening after calling for a one-day strike for better wages.
Matt Sepic | MPR News

Hundreds of Twin Cities janitors are planning to rally in Minneapolis Thursday evening after calling for a one-day strike for better wages, paid sick time and an environmentally friendly cleaning program.

The strikers, represented by the Service Employees International Union, work in commercial buildings and offices for about a dozen cleaning companies around the region. The contracts covering about 4,000 janitors expired at the end of January.

Negotiations with the companies stalled and members voted to authorize a strike earlier this month, said SEIU Local 26 President Iris Altamirano. She said the union is asking for employers to chip in for a program to certify workers in more environmentally friendly cleaning methods.

“With the green cleaning program we’re thinking beyond our workers, thinking to lower carbon emissions, and the chemicals our workers use,” Altamirano said. “We have reports of workers using chemicals that should be used more on a monthly basis than a daily basis.”

The janitors are also asking for wage increases and paid sick time for suburban cleaners, which Altamirano said the companies have rejected. The parties are scheduled to return to the bargaining table Friday. The cities of Minneapolis and St. Paul both have ordinances requiring employers to provide sick time.

John Nesse is an attorney and lead negotiator for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association.

“We’re disappointed that the union has chosen to call a 24-hour strike,” Nesse said. “We look forward to getting back to the negotiation process tomorrow.”

Nesse said the union is asking for wage increases of more than a third.

“We remain challenged by some of the proposals that are on the table,” Nesse said. “At the same time, we are hopeful that we’ll have an agreement soon.”

Janitors also struck during negotiations in 2016.

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