On Saturday afternoon, the Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ voted to strike amidst negotiations for a new contract. The union, which has 13,000 members, would begin the strike if they don’t reach an agreement with Maintenance Contractors Association New England (MCNE) by Friday, which is when their current contract expires.
The conflict surrounds more employer-paid health care to family member for full-time employees, and a cost of living wage increase, as well as shifting from part-time jobs to more fulltime (currently 30% of the union is full-time, according to the Boston Globe article). However, Matt Ellis, spokesman for the Maintenance Contractors of New England, stated that MCNE has agreed to family health coverage (with no employee contribution for full-timers), and 2.24 percent increase in wages each year for the next four years, which would bring wages up to $19.45 by 2020.
“We believe real progress was made on economic issues like wages and health care. As a result, the MCNE believes today’s union strike vote is unnecessary,” said Ellis. “The MCNE is confident a fair and reasonable settlement can and will be reached without a strike.”
According to a statement, the union is also pushing for protections against unreasonable workloads.
The striking janitors clean roughly 2,000 building throughout Boston, including the Prudential, Vertex and the John Hancock, as well as multiple colleges such as Simmons, Wentworth, and Northeastern (so I personally will be impacted if this strike occurs; yuck!). The MBTA will also be affected, which could impact every commuter should conditions deteriorate rapidly.
Mayor Marty Walsh has said he would not cross the picket line into the buildings the union is striking against should the strike occur.
“Certainly, the janitors in Boston do vital work for our city. I support their work. I know every four to five years this happens. I’m hopeful they reach an agreement,” Walsh told the Boston Herald. Walsh is a former labor union leader, whose ties helped him into office. However, when two of his administration officials were indicted on extortion charges this summer, his relationships came under fire.
Seeing as there are four days left until the strike begins, I’m personally hoping they will come to some agreement. Otherwise, things are going to get very smelly around Northeastern very quickly!