INDIANAPOLIS – On Thursday, Feb. 21 a three-year effort by 1,500 Indianapolis janitors to form a union with the Service Employees International Union (SEIU) culminated as representatives of Local 3 headed to the bargaining table.

They will be negotiating for fair pay, access to affordable health care and more working hours with an eye to improving not only working conditions, but also setting a standard for other low-wage service workers in Indianapolis.

Carla Head, a member of the bargaining committee, told the World that “We are some of the hardest working people in this city, and we are here because we want to be respected and treated fairly.”

Minutes before negotiations took place, local community leaders including State Rep. David Orentlicher (D), religious leaders, and Jobs with Justice activists held a brief prayer vigil for the six members of the bargaining committee in freezing snow near Monument Circle.

Speedway United Methodist Church Senior Pastor Darren Cushman-Wood stated, “These negotiations represent a real opportunity to begin the process of ending the economic segregation in Indianapolis which has been a barrier for thousands of workers to enter the middle class.”

Local 3 will negotiate with representatives of American Building Maintenance (ABM), Group Services France (GSF), Mitch Murch Maintenance Methods (4M), Sommers Building Maintenance, and Bulldog, who currently offer the majority of janitors just four to six working hours a day and pay between $6 and $7.50 an hour with no affordable health care.

The janitors clean the executive office buildings of the largest companies in Indianapolis. Some of these corporate giants bring in over $1 billion a day.