Second group of Twin Cities workers reaches tentative deal ahead of March 4 walkout

People walk together
About 200 members of SEIU Local 26 march through the Minneapolis skyway demanding better wages and benefits in their 2024 union contract. The union represents more than 4,000 janitorial workers who clean buildings in downtown Minneapolis
Aaron Nesheim | Sahan Journal 2023

This story comes to you from Sahan Journal through a partnership with MPR News.

By Alfonzo Galvan | Sahan Journal

A local labor union has won a second key contract, gaining raises and a paid Juneteenth holiday for 2,000 security officers, many who work in downtown Minneapolis office buildings.

That follows a deal earlier Wednesday covering 500 janitors who clean big box stores across the Twin Cities.

But a larger group of Service Employees International Union Local 26 workers are still set for a strike the week of March 4, along with other unions who pledged to set an early March deadline for new contracts. Hundreds of nursing home workers with SEIU Healthcare Minnesota have set a date of March 5 to walkout, while the St. Paul Federation of Educators has notified the state they plan on striking on March 11.

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The two Local 26 deals come after months of negotiations with multiple subcontractors leading up to the early March strike date.

Cristina Flores-Perez, a retail janitor employed by IFS who cleans a Target, said she was happy to gain two paid holidays to spend with her kids.

“This shows what we can win when we fight to win what we deserve. My message to everyone else still fighting for a contract: keep fighting and win what you deserve,” Flores-Perez said.

Local 26 said the retail janitors’ agreement included a 17% floor pay increase from $14.50 to $17 over the four-year contract, paid days off on Thanksgiving and Christmas, or double pay for anyone working those holidays.

The agreement also includes improved PTO for workers and a health care plan that costs workers less out of pocket.

Greg Nammacher, president of SEIU Local 26, said Wednesday’s agreement would be the retail janitors’ third contract and first to include paid holidays. 

“It is sad how hard we have to fight for such basic things. But they fought for holidays, this for three contracts. And they finally won it,” Nammacher said.

Local 26 has been bargaining with employers since November, according to Nammacher. He said members of the bargaining team hugged each other in celebration early Wednesday after the agreement for retail janitors was reached.

“Often many of our members are invisible. And so sometimes we do have to declare public deadlines in order to get the kind of steps forward that we deserve,” Nammacher said. 

Andrea Villanueva, a retail janitor who cleans a Lunds & Byerlys store in Minneapolis, said the workers’ win came as a result of their perseverance and she’s glad they remained united.

“I feel so good about what we were able to win. The wage increases are very important and I am happy we won paid holidays for the first time ever,” Villanueva said. 

The tentative agreement will be reviewed by union members before they approve it later this week, according to the news release.

A separate agreement covering security guards was announced late Wednesday.

Highlights include the group’s first employer-funded retirement plan, with $0.15 per hour worked deposited into an employee’s 401(k); pay floor increases of 20 to 27% for different job classifications; and a new classification for officers who face increased risks on the job, with a $4 per hour pay increase over the four-year life of the contract.

The security officers also won Juneteenth as a paid holiday.

Emery Hall, an Allied security officer who works at Wells Fargo Home Mortgage, said it felt “great” to get the new deal. He also said he was happy to avoid a strike, after participating in one a decade ago.

“Over the last few days, with long nights of bargaining, we pushed hard and tipped the scale to get this deal done and avoid the strike,” Hall said.

He advised other workers to be “ready to strike” if they needed to so they could also win what they deserve.

Nammacher said Local 26 had bargaining scheduled for commercial janitors on Friday. He said there are more than a dozen employers involved in bargaining for commercial janitors, the last session before the strike deadline.

“It’s our hope that we can settle all of these contracts before the deadline, but we’ll have to see each additional step forward to help raise people’s hope and expectation that we can really win something that will help our families,” he said.