The union contract of nearly every Philadelphia Center City office cleaner expires tomorrow. And they still don’t have a deal
If they don’t come to an agreement by Tuesday, the cleaners will go on strike.
At the end of the day tomorrow, Tuesday, Oct. 15, some 3,000 commercial office cleaners that service 120 office buildings in Center City will no longer be under contract to work.
It means companies with serious office space in Center City, such as Comcast, Wells Fargo, FMC, and PECO could lose their cleaning crews to a strike if an agreement isn’t reached in the remaining day-and-a-half timeframe.
For the past month, union reps and employers have tried to hash out a deal to no avail.
The Building Operators Labor Relations and the workers union 32BJ SEIU haven’t agreed on issues like workers’ healthcare, wages, and retirement benefits.
In Philadelphia, where 26% of people live below the poverty line, cleaning workers earn an average of $17-$19 an hour. While above the federal minimum wage, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Living Wage Calculation, sets the necessary living payment in Philadelphia county at $25.36.
“If we want to tackle poverty in Philadelphia, we need to make sure that there is a pathway to the middle class for the workers who make Center City’s growth possible,” said Gabe Morgan, Vice President of 32BJ SEIU.
With this in mind, Philadelphia City Council called for “a fair contract” and said the process is “a crucial test of whether Center City’s development will truly benefit all Philadelphians.”
Councilmember Cherelle Parker introduced the motion with support from councilmembers María Quiñones Sánchez, Kenyatta Johnson, and Curtis Jones Jr., and stated that workers “should not be asked to sacrifice their benefits and retirement security in order to create more profits for an industry that is undeniably booming.”
As for the workers, they are ready to do “whatever it takes to protect our livelihoods,” said Juanita E. Acree, a commercial cleaner for 33 years.
If cleaners strike tomorrow, they will be joined building engineers and other building service workers covered under the same contract.