Janitors reject poverty wages

ST. LOUIS, Mo. – The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 50 held a press conference here Aug. 2, announcing that two companies who provide cleaning services at the Thomas Eagleton Federal Court House have not complied with the Federal Prevailing Wage Act (FPWA) since July 1, 2001.

The Federal Prevailing Wage Act is intended to insure that all employees in a certain job category are paid in accordance to figures arrived at by the Labor Department, based on an average wage. The Federal Prevailing Wage is applicable to all city-owned, leased and contracted property, including Lambert Airport, the TWA Dome, City Hall and Thomas Eagleton Court House.

Mitch Murch Maintenance Management (4M) and Maintenance Unlimited employ the janitors at the courthouse. Both 4M and Maintenance Unlimited are members of the Contract Cleaners Association (CCA), an association of eight companies. Local 50 has been in contract negotiations with CCA since November 2001 and is seeking a $1 per hour annual increase in wages, for janitors who don’t fall under the FPWA.

In April, 4M and Maintenance Unlimited canceled the workers’ health insurance, also a violation of the FPWA. Local 50 President Donald Rudd said, “this is just a simple matter of CCA not willing to cut their profit margins to provide a living wage.”

On July 30, members of Local 50 rallied and marched through historic Union Station, one of St. Louis’ major tourist attractions and home to hundreds of retail and gift stores.

The janitors that clean Union Station are employed by 4M.

Charlie Hatcher, director of organizing for Local 50, his voice blasting through a bullhorn, informed the patrons of Union Station that 4M “pays poverty wages” and “St. Louis janitors aren’t gonna take it anymore.”

As members of Local 50 chanted “six bucks sucks,” Jessie Wise, a four-year employee of 4M, told the World, “We all got to stick together! We all got to come out of our buildings and we got to show the boss who’s boss!”

Two weeks ago Local 50 set up pickets at four different Mitch Murch locations: Alberici Construction, Shnucks Corporate Headquarters, Equitable Building and the Thomas Eagleton Federal Court House.

“As of 4 p.m., Monday, July 29, all 4M buildings are on atrike. We are gonna escalate the situation,” Local 50 President Donald Rudd said at a July 27 meeting of the membership. Added to the list of buildings already being picketed are the Laclede Gas Building, Bank of America Plaza, Bank of America Tower, Phillips 66 Refinery, Sunset Office Park and Union Station.

Arnold Jones, a janitor at the Bank of America Tower, said, “I’m picketing because I got nothing to lose. Six bucks an hour isn’t enough to pay the bills.”

The author can be reached at tonpec2000@yahoo.com