Unions Seek $15 Wage for All Janitors

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SEIU Local 1 janitors rally Downtown for $15 an hour. Photo by Graham Kilmer.

Several twelve national janitors and nonrecreational cleaners rallied Tuesday successful downtown Milwaukee to punctual their employers that they privation $15 an hr — and they privation it now.

The union, represented by Service Employees International Union Local 1, includes hundreds of janitors and sanitation workers successful the bulk of downtown bureau buildings that began declaration negotiations Tuesday with the astir twelve contractors that employment them.

In this bargaining league the workers are seeking $15 an hr arsenic a starting wage, up from the existent $13.60 an hour. But the national is besides trying to negociate a declaration that volition screen each the workers employed successful the Milwaukee country by the 9 contractors negotiating with SEIU affiliated workers connected their latest contract.

Peter Rickman, president of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Union, which represents work workers astatine the Fiserv Forum, helped to signifier the rally Tuesday. He told Urban Milwaukee that MASH and SEIU are sister unions that are partnering to enactment workers successful spot services. This includes nutrient work and sanitation workers and information guards, among others.

“It’s a beauteous unthinkable infinitesimal wherever janitors are going to the array not lone saying we request a surviving wage but we privation to marque definite that everyone that does this enactment similar america has a surviving wage and has rights, has information connected the job, too.”

The workers rallied Tuesday successful beforehand of the Railway Exchange gathering astatine the country of E. Wisconsin Ave. and N. Broadway. Across the street, their employers were caucusing unneurotic to hole to statesman negotiations with the union’s bargaining team.

Before opening a chorus of chants, 1 of the organizers tried to occurrence up the assemblage by reminding them that the achromatic collar employees they were demanding a surviving wage from would each beryllium heading location and enjoying the Bucks crippled arsenic they would beryllium successful the buildings working.

The declaration volition screen the immense bulk of sanitation workers successful ample downtown buildings, but Rickman said the extremity is to grow this: “One of the main fights successful this declaration dialog is gonna beryllium astir whether that geographic country expands and however it mightiness grow to screen different parts of the city.”

The contractors that person employees moving successful Downtown besides person employees successful businesses and concern parks passim the metropolis and the county. The national is attempting to negociate for amended wages “guaranteed rights, respect, information and dignity connected the job,” connected their behalf, Rickman said.

“This declaration is astir lifting up a exemplary for however to execute what we telephone sectoral bargaining oregon concern bargaining,” helium said. “Everybody successful the manufacture sits astatine the array unneurotic to fig retired what the communal standards are.”

The janitors and cleaners with SEIU, and with the assistance of MASH, are attempting to make a caller exemplary for organizing labour successful Milwaukee and raising the wage level for workers.

Rickman said argumentation makers successful Milwaukee and Wisconsin person agelong understood the request for raising the minimum wage, but person lacked the powerfulness oregon authorization to bash so.

State law prohibits section governments from enacting a section minimum wage oregon adjacent legislating their ain employment regulations. Because of this, Rickman said the lone mode to rise wages is done national declaration campaigns and organizing drives that bring hundreds and thousands of workers nether contracts with surviving wages and idiosyncratic protections.

“We judge that yet the mode to alteration work assemblage enactment successful Milwaukee is to get each the employers to 1 array successful an manufacture to speech astir wages and benefits and rights connected the job,” Rickman said.

Eventually, Rickman said, aboriginal declaration negotiations should straight impact the powerful, firm gathering owners and developers. “It’s the BMO Harris Banks, the US Banks of the world, the Irgens’s of the world… They’re the ones that person the money,” that wage the spot work workers contracts, helium noted.

The bulk of the workers that rallied Tuesday were Latino. This is typical of the national and the bulk of cleaners successful commercialized and bureau buildings successful Milwaukee, Rickman said. Most are Black oregon Latino.

“99% of these folks bring a paycheck location to the neighborhoods” of Milwaukee, Rickman noted.

Milwaukee cannot code radical and economical inequality without raising the wages of the work assemblage moving class, Rickman said, which comprises a disproportionate fig of Black and Latino radical comparative to the area’s population.

White-collar diverseness and inclusion initiatives are admirable, Rickman said. “But to execute thing astatine scale,” helium stressed, “is going to necessitate things similar raising wages for janitors, raising wages for nutrient work workers, raising wages for information officers.”

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