Angeline Terry

Janitors Rally for New Union Contract

Demands include a $15 minimum wage and union contracts for all cleaners in Milwaukee.

By - Jun 15th, 2021 04:28 pm
Justice for Janitors Day. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization.

Justice for Janitors Day. Photo courtesy of the Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization.

Milwaukee janitors rallied Tuesday afternoon at Zeidler Union Square to launch their campaign for a new union contract.  

The janitors and Milwaukee Area Service and Hospitality Workers Organization (MASH) are set to begin negotiations on a labor agreement with Milwaukee area contractors in the coming weeks. Their contract demands include a $15 minimum wage and union-level employment protections for all cleaners in Milwaukee. They also are demanding a “voice and seat at the table for janitors,” said MASH President Peter Rickman in an interview before the press conference.

Rickman emphasized that these protections would have helped protect janitors during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“We took on our cleaning duties without PPE,” janitor Daniuel Kaczynski noted in a press release. “We didn’t have the equipment we needed nor the training for the new chemicals we used.”   

The hazardous working conditions during the pandemic were highlighted at the rally, with a moment of silence for Avelino Abrego, Aurelio Hernandez and Clinton Carter, all of whom were Milwaukee janitors who died of COVID-19. 

“They contracted the virus working in unsafe conditions, worried that if they did not work, they would not eat,” said janitor Leti Mendoza. “And they died because of it.” 

Other Milwaukee service workers fighting for similar demands also attended the rally. Workers from a nursing home, Marquette food service and Fiserv Forum spoke about uniting all service workers. 

The rally took place on Justice for Janitors Day, an international event first held on June 15, 1990. “[It] really changed the tide in the way that the public looked at janitors and the struggle for economic, racial and social justice,” said Rickman of the day’s formation. 

He said that a focus on the intersectionality of this movement is crucial. 

“Rectifying Milwaukee’s twin crises of racial and economic inequality and injustice requires ensuring that service sector jobs disproportionately built by Black folks and other people of color are living wage, union jobs with benefits,” Rickman said. 

MASH was founded in 2018 to implement a community benefits agreement with the Milwaukee Bucks for workers at Fiserv Forum.

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Categories: Business, Politics

2 thoughts on “Janitors Rally for New Union Contract”

  1. sbaldwin001 says:

    I would much rather see these workers rallying for a $12/hr wage with better healthcare and working conditions. Milwaukee has a very low cost of living, and this allows us to attract employers and business. What is the point of $15/hour if there are no jobs?

    Also, I would love to see an analysis of the effect of healthcare cost increases over the last 30 years on our economy. I suspect it is a root cause of much of our discomfort.

    S. Baldwin
    Milwaukee 53233

  2. sbaldwin001 says:

    Here’s one other thing: If a $15/hour campaign is successful, employers might resort to Amazon-type surveillance and monitoring to ensure maximum efficiency. This can be a rough trade – more money for more monitoring, and very few employees last long under these circumstances. Again, I suggest a more modest pay increase with better healthcare and working conditions.

    Also, I’d like to add the effect of college cost increases over the last 30 years to that economic analysis. Like healthcare, I suspect it’s had a big effect on working families.

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