Margaret Levin
Margaret Levin, executive director of the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, addresses reporters at a news conference Wednesday. Behind her is Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff.

“We’re committed to connecting our members who work in these offices during the day with the janitors who clean them at night,” said Margaret Levin, executive director of the North Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

“Many of our members work in these commercial office buildings across the Twin Cities, and property managers should expect to hear from their tenants who are Sierra Club members. We are just one of nearly a dozen environmental organizations in the Twin Cities that support janitors’ efforts and have pledged to support a strike if it is necessary.”

In contract negotiations, 4,000 janitors represented by Service Employees International Union Local 26 are asking cleaning companies to adopt green cleaning practices, including a transition to day shift cleaning. They say their proposals would save money and help the environment.

Bargaining is slated for Wednesday and Thursday, but has not gone well and the workers have authorized union leaders to call a strike if necessary.

At a news conference in Minneapolis City Hall, the union released a long list of people and organizations supporting the workers and their “Good Jobs, Green Future” campaign, including a number of public officials. In addition to Levin, speakers included Minneapolis City Council member Gary Schiff.

“This isn’t just about janitors – it’s about making our community a better, safer place to live and work,” he said. “It is no surprise that there are with us here today both labor unions and environmental organizations, since the need for good, green, clean energy jobs is one that we all understand.”

Widespread effect
Janitors have been bargaining for months with their employers, including ABM, Harvard, and Marsden, and they have been working without a contract since Jan. 8. Local 26 President Javier Morillo-Alicea said the cleaning companies have not been bargaining in good faith and appealed to building owners to step in.

“The people who hold the power are the building owners” who hire the cleaning companies, he said.

A strike would affect the vast majority of commercial office buildings and corporate headquarters in the Twin Cities region. Union leaders who spoke at Wednesday’s news conference said other unions would rally to support any strike.

Rhys Ledger, Director of Organizing for Teamsters Local 120, said Local 120 members would honor SEIU picketlines.

Bill McCarthy, president of the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation, said other unions will raise funds and conduct other solidarity activities to support a strike.

Janitors have scheduled a march through the Minneapolis skyway system on Monday, Feb. 15, to escalate their campaign for a fair contract. The march will start at 11:30 a.m. at the Hennepin County Government Center.

For more information
View more coverage in the special Workday section on "Good Jobs, Green Future"

View more photos on the Minneapolis Regional Labor Federation Facebook page

SEIU members at Minneapolis City Hall
SEIU members hold up banners promoting their campaign in the lobby of Minneapolis City Hall.

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