ST. LOUIS, Mo. – Members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 50 rallied outside of the Laclede Gas Building here on May 25.

The janitors who clean the Laclede Gas Building are employed by Mitch Murch Maintenance Management (4M), a member of the Contract Cleaners Association (CCA). Local 50 has been in contract negotiations with CCA, an association of eight cleaning companies, since November 16, 2001.

According to Charlie Hatcher, Local 50’s organizing director, “4M pays its janitors poverty wages.”

One janitor said, “I’ve been working for Mitch Murch for 14 years. I make $6.95 an hour. I have no health benefits. And no pension plan.” She told the World that she was making $6.70 before the 25-cent wage increase was put into effect.

CCA instituted an across-the-board 25-cent increase in wages in early May in an attempt to weaken the campaign. Local 50 is demanding a $1 an hour wage increase.

“I’m worth more than a quarter and I’m gonna keep fighting,” said janitor Santois Tucker.

Thirteen independent cleaning companies have signed on to the new master agreement that includes a $7.25 hourly starting wage and a 70-cent wage increase in the second year of the contract.

“Mitch Murch, tell the people of St. Louis why you think it is okay to pay janitors poverty wages?” Hatcher said, as his voice blasted from a bullhorn at the rally. “Can you live on minimum wage? The janitors that clean St. Louis office buildings will not work for poverty wages anymore.”

Recently, First Bank made a commitment to put 21 First Bank branches, employing over 25 janitors, out to bid. “Mitch Murch used to have those building accounts,” Hatcher said. “Not anymore! Now independent cleaning companies, that are willing to pay a decent wage, will get those accounts. Mitch Murch is gonna feel the pinch. And this single account change has cost them close to 2 million dollars.”

The author can be reached at tonpec2000@yahoo.com

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