MINNEAPOLIS -- If they don't reach a deal by Feb. 14, janitors who clean buildings across the Twin Cities could strike.
Saturday afternoon, members with Service Employees International Union Local 26 voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call an unfair labor practice strike at any time.
The janitors say they want better wages. Some earn $11 per hour.
Negotiations with employers started in October. Their previous three-year-contract expired on Dec. 31. A majority of the members represented in the union, Local 26, work in Minneapolis and St. Paul. Others clean businesses in Bloomington.
Saturday, Lt. Governor Tina Smith told the crowd their demands are “not unreasonable.”
“Sometimes you have to demand to be treated fairly. Sometimes you need to show firmness of purpose in order to get what you deserve,” she said. “I look at these workers who do so much to keep our economy running, often in the middle of the night. Everybody else is sleeping and they are working to clean up office buildings.”
Moving forward, the janitors say they want a minimum wage of $15 per hour. They also want healthcare benefits and a policy that address their growing workload. A union representative said some clean the equivalent of more than 20 homes per night.
Workers like Brahim Koney, who said Marsden is his employer, believes he his colleagues should be compensated for their hard work.
“When I am home with my children I can barely do anything with them because I am tired and physically drained from all of the hard work,” Koney said. “All you want to do is sleep, eat and sleep and go back to work.”
Koney said he is prepared to strike. And that means days with no pay.
“Being afraid is doing nothing, so I am not afraid,” he said. “We have had eight sessions and not a single agreement.”
John Nesse, a spokesperson with Contract Cleaners Association, told KARE 11 he is optimistic they will reach an agreement. They have plans to meet with the union on January 29.
“We are committed to negotiating an agreement that reflects the mutual best interest of the employees, employers and the customers we serve,” Nesse said.