credit: 32BJ SEIU/Ann Hermes

Agreement Reached: 12,500 Janitors in Massachusetts and Rhode Island Avoid Strike

Twelve hours after a negotiation committee of janitors unanimously approved a tentative new union contract at 4 AM Wednesday, over 100 building cleaners gathered downtown in a chilly and darkening park to hear about the historic accord from members of the committee, union officers, and supportive city councilors. The agreement covers 12,500 janitors who clean 1,500 buildings from the New Hampshire border to the suburbs of Providence, at pay scales that vary according to region. In Greater Boston, which includes almost three-quarters of the workforce, the contract offers janitors an annual pay increases totaling over 18 percent, when compounded over the four-year agreement.

As 32BJ SEIU Assistant to the President Roxana Rivera recited the annual increases in Spanish in the Post Office Square gathering, union members cheered and nodded to each other in agreement. The increase is easily the largest ever secured by 32BJ SEIU cleaners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island.

“Building cleaners risked themselves and their families to keep properties safe and sanitized during the pandemic,” said Rivera immediately after the gathering. “Many never even got a thank you for that sacrifice. This wage increase is essential in the post-pandemic economy, but it also recognizes the vital contributions of these workers, which simply should not be ignored after what we went through.”

In addition to the wage increase, the tentative agreement would also convert 500 part-time positions in Boston and Cambridge to full-time jobs over the course of the contract, permitting many members cleaning biotech and higher education sites to access employer-paid health benefits for the first time. In addition, the agreement adds Juneteenth as a paid holiday and one more paid day off, as well as increasing employer contributions to the pension fund.

“Boston is about treating all workers with respect and dignity,” said Boston City Council President Ed Flynn. “Decent wage, dignity in retirement, healthcare: that’s what Boston is all about.”

Union members will vote on the agreement at in-person meetings across the region between Saturday and Tuesday. The union will announce the results on Wednesday, November 22.