Agreement reached on janitor contract, strike avoided

Service Employees International Union (SEIU) 32BJ and Cushman and Wakefield (C&W) Services reached an agreement on Tufts janitors’ contracts two hours before the negotiating deadline yesterday evening. The agreement avoided a strike that janitors had voted to authorize and would have likely gone into effect if an agreement had not been reached, according to Regional Communications Manager for the New England branch Eugenio Villasante.

The contract, which is replacing the contract settled in 2013, will not be finalized until all janitors vote to approve it. The proposed contract features several victories for the union: It will increase wages, putting them at $21.55 an hour by 2020 as opposed to their current $19.35 wages, and improve pensions, according to a press release from Villasante.

Another provision of the new contract is more training for janitors, according to Villasante. Tufts Labor Coalition (TLC) member Nicole Joseph said increased training might include tutorials on how to use cleaning equipment, work safety training and English and citizenship classes.

Workers can also expect a more secure health care plan and more opportunities for full-time work, the press release stated.

Janitor Angustina Santana was pleased that an agreement was reached and that she and other janitors would not be going on strike.

“I’m happy that one, we don’t have to go on strike, that we got a good contract [because] going on strike, that’s work that’s sacrificed,” she said, as translated by TLC member David Ferrándiz.

Patrick Collins, executive director of public relations, said the university was satisfied with the result of the negotiations.

“We’re thankful that C&W and the Service Employees International Union, Local 32BJ, have reached a tentative agreement on a contract that is fair for all parties. As always, we value C&W janitors’ contributions to our community, and we look forward to their continued presence on our campus,” he said in a written statement.

Joseph said that the outcome of the contract negotiations demonstrates the power of organizing.

“Despite how unwilling the administration has been to support the janitors in any way, there are positive outcomes that [have come from] the organizing of the janitors, the students and the union,” she said.  

Throughout the day, the result of the negotiations was uncertain, with SEIU and TLC holding several rallies in support of the janitors’ demands.

At 7 a.m., janitors met in front of Curtis Hall. At noon, janitors, students and union representatives marched from Tilton Hall to the upper patio of the Mayer Campus Center, walking through the building and stopping in the Dewick-MacPhie Dining Center to bring the issue to the attention of students eating lunch. At that point, a strike still seemed likely, as several of the janitors’ demands had still not been met, according to Eric Emerson, assistant director of higher education for SEIU.

“We’ve had some movement but it’s nowhere where we need to be,” Emerson said at the gathering at noon.

Another rally was held on the Academic Quad at 4 p.m. Janitors, students, members of TLC and members of the Jewish Labor Committee were in attendance, according to Joseph.

Janitors, such as Blanca Gutierrez who attended the noon action, said they were prepared to strike if negotiations were not successful.

“[A strike is] necessary because we have to fight for our rights and this is the only alternative the company has left us with of power,” she said in Spanish, as translated by Daily reporter Catherine Perloff.

Kathleen Schmidt contributed reporting on this article.