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Detroit janitors announce vote to authorize strike pending contract negotiations

Oliver Hale

Update, Tuesday July 24 at 1:00 p.m.:

Service Employees International Union Local 1 janitors announced Monday night that they had voted to authorize a possible strike, pending contract negotiations. If they are unable to reach agreements with their employers for a $15 per hour wage and three year contract before their contracts expire at the end of the month, Detroit could be facing a strike of 1,700 janitors starting August 1st.

?Original post, Monday July 23 at 4:00 p.m.:  

Detroit janitors voted this weekend on whether they would authorize an industry-wide strike. They are planning on announcing the results of the vote Monday night.

This vote comes as their union heads into a week of contract negotiations; the janitors’ contracts are set to expire on July 31st.

Izabela Miltko-Ivkovich is the Communications Director for the Local 1 branch of the Service Employees International Union, which represents 1,700 Detroit janitors.

She says the union wants a three-year contract and a $15 per hour wage. For most of the janitors, their starting wage has been $9.45. Miltko-Ivkovich says many of the union members rely on public assistance while working a full-time job just to make ends meet.

“What we’re seeing in Detroit, there's so much redevelopment happening, there's so much more business coming to Detroit, buildings are doing very well, they're booming,” she says. “However, the long-life Detroiters that have been there their entire life, unfortunately, their wages do not reflect the benefits of that redevelopment.”

Many of the 1,700 SEIU Local 1 janitors work in buildings downtown, such as the Renaissance Center. The potential strike, however, would not be restricted to downtown.

“Under this contract there are also about 500 Detroit Public Schools janitors, along with a couple hundred janitors at the airport,” Miltko-Ivkovich says. “So if these janitors choose to walk, this would affect the entire city of Detroit.”

The majority of the Detroit workers are employed by Professional Building Maintenance/Preferred Building Services, ABM Janitorial Services, and GDI Omni. If the union voted to authorize a strike, they will work with these companies to try to obtain the three-year contract and $15 an hour wage. If an agreement is not reached, Detroit could be facing the effects of this strike after their contract expires at the end of the month.

Milto-Ivkovich says about 400 members of the union showed up to vote on the strike this weekend. The results of the vote will be announced Monday night at 7 p.m. in front of the Compuware Building in Campus Martius.

In addition to at least a hundred union members, state Representative Stephanie Chang and Detroit Councilwoman Janeé Ayers are expected to attend. Miltko-Ivkovich says both of them have been strong supporters of creating well-paying jobs in Detroit.

The announcement is set to be followed by a prayer led by prominent local clergy members to “hope for a good outcome to these negotiations and really for a better Detroit for all.”