Janitors picket for living wage

ST. LOUIS – On Feb. 21, members of Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 50 and Jobs with Justice picketed outside of the Frontenac Hilton here. The Business Owners and Managers Association (BOMA) of St. Louis were meeting there.

BOMA is a key player in whether janitors are rewarded for their hard work. “Although BOMA is not the direct employer,” said Charley Hatcher, organizing director for Local 50, “they control the purse strings. When BOMA agrees, St. Louis janitors will have justice.”

Local 50 is in the middle of contract negotiations with the Contract Cleaners Association (CCA) an association of eight different companies. The current round of negotiations started November 16.

The average St. Louis janitor makes $6.50 an hour. SEIU Local 50 is negotiating for a $1 an hour annual increase, eventually bringing the average hourly wage to over $9 per hour. The CCA is offering a 25 cents per hour annual increase.

A cleaning contract that provides janitors with living wage and healthcare benefits would increase the operating expenses of building owners by 5 percent. The average rental cost for a 100,000 square foot building is $15.92 per square foot. In order to provide justice to the janitorial and custodial workers an owner would need to increase rent by 1.6 cents per rental dollar.

On January 26 members of SEIU Local 50 voted unanimously to go on strike. Local 50 represents 3,000 janitorial and custodial workers in St. Louis and the St. Louis County area.

“This is just the beginning,” said Hatcher.