ST. LOUIS, Mo. – More than 300 people protested outside of the Bank of America building here on April 26. The action was in support of the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 50 Justice for Janitors Campaign.

Mitch Murch, one of the eight members of the Contract Cleaners Association (CCA), employs the janitors that clean the Bank of America building. Local 50 has been in contract negotiations with CCA since Nov. 16, 2001. They are demanding a $1 an hour annual increase. CCA said its final offer is 25 cents an hour annually.

Doris James, a janitor employed by Spann Cleaning Company, also a member of CCA, said, “We are overworked and underpaid! The bosses are paid well. We should get paid well. We earned it!”

The average St. Louis janitor makes $6.50 per hour. According to the East West Gateway Coordinating Council, St. Louis janitors’ wages are 30 percent below minimum standards of $9 to $10 per hour.

“We need more money! And we are going to fight until we get it,” James continued.

Members of the Communication Workers of America (CWA) Civil Rights and Equity Conference were also in attendance.

Lavern Bradley, chief steward of CWA Local 6310, said, “We are going to do everything we can to make sure that you get the wages you deserve.”

Larry Cohen, executive vice president of CWA, said, “Working together we can make a difference. Working together we are stronger. Working together we can win.”

SEIU Local 50 recently signed a contract with St. Louis University (SLU). Janitors at SLU will receive a 66 percent wage increase in the first year of the new contract. SLU has also agreed to cover the tuition costs of the janitors and their families.

Thirteen independent cleaning companies have signed on to the new master agreement. It will raise the contract minimum from $5.25 to $7.25 in the first year and $7.95 in the second year. Local 50 President Donald Rudd said, “no janitor will get less than a 75-cent increase in the first year [and] 70 cents in the second year.”

The author can be reached at tonpec2000@yahoo.com

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