Janitors and Twin Cities employers have reached a tentative contract agreement that would raise wages 12.3 percent over four years, union officials said.
The deal was reached shortly after 1 a.m. Monday and averted a second walkout after a one-day strike by janitors last month.
Janitors will vote this weekend on the pact, which has the recommendation of the union's bargaining committee, said Josh Keller, spokesman for the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 26.
"This is a contract we are extremely proud of," said Javier Morillo, president of Local 26. "Thousands of janitors will make over $15 an hour immediately."
Full-time janitors, who now earn $14.62 per hour, make up about 60 percent of the roughly 4,000 janitors represented by SEIU Local 26. The union was asking for a $1-an-hour raise in each of the next three years for full-time janitors, which would have amounted to a 20 percent jump in that period.
The union also pushed to get part-time janitors — who are paid $11 to $13 an hour — over the $15 threshold in this contract, but fell short. Still, part-timers, like full-timers, will get a 12.3 percent raise over four years, with the largest amounts coming in the first two years.
Under the new contract, part-timers also will get two sick days, where previously they had none. Plus, part-timers will get considerably better access to health care coverage, Morillo said.
The contract agreement also has measures to help alleviate workers' concerns of an ever-increasing workload. Essentially, janitors have had to progressively clean more office space during their shifts, the union says.
John Nesse, an attorney representing the cleaning companies, confirmed that the negotiations finished after the 18th bargaining session "with an agreement and a handshake." He declined to discuss details "out of respect of the union ratification process."
He said the agreement is "one that is in the mutual best interests of the employees, the employers and the customers we serve. … We have averted a second strike, and obviously that's something we're pleased about."
The key cleaning companies that negotiated with the janitors are ABM Janitorial Services, Marsden Building Maintenance, ABLE Building Maintenance and Harvard Maintenance.
With the contract, union stewards will be allowed to do workload-related walk-throughs of workplaces, on company time. Also, the University of Minnesota's School of Public Health will be commissioned by Local 26 and union janitorial companies to study workload and ergonomics issues.
"The best thing about this contract for me is the study from the University of Minnesota," said Lucia Guaman, who cleans offices at the RBC Plaza in downtown Minneapolis and is a member of the union's bargaining committee.
"I know what it's like to have an excessive workload. We are going to study the problem so we can move on this crisis in the future."
The local represents more than 6,000 janitors, security officers and window cleaners in the Twin Cities metropolitan area. Most of them work in downtown Minneapolis and St. Paul, but some are in office buildings scattered around the seven-county metro area.
The janitors went on strike Feb. 17 for 24 hours, setting up picket lines across the metro area. Some of their allies protested in downtown Minneapolis and stopped traffic during the morning commute on Feb. 18.