SEIU Local 615, the union representing 18,000 janitors, security officers, and maintenance workers in MA, NH and RI, including 19 people working at CVS Corproate Headquarters in Woonsocket, has voted to authorize their bargaining committee to call a strike.
There are another six people working throughout Woonsocket represented by the union, according to SEIU Local 615 spokeswoman Rachel Miller. The union represents 600 janitors in Rhode Island total.
CVS Caremark spokesman Mike DeAngelis said the people working at CVS are not directly employed by the company. "CVS Caremark engages an outside service to perform some of the janitorial work in our Customer Support Center in Woonsocket. We have no comment on the status of any labor negotiations between the SEIU and one of our service providers," DeAngelis wrote in response to request for comment.
By a standing voice vote, 1,000 janitors voted to allow the committee to call a strike, according to a release from the union.
“The message today is crystal clear: like 2002, we are ready to strike to defend our rights,” said SEIU Local 615 President Rocio Saenz. “The janitors who keep New England’s cities sparkling earn too little to make ends meet. That’s wrong,” continued Saenz.
The contract for 14,000 New England janitors expires on Sept. 30. Janitors and the contractors are still very far apart. Janitors are seeking fair wages, more hours and to ensure that more janitors are covered by employer-paid health insurance. But the contractors have put forward proposals that would erase many of the hard-fought gains that New England janitors have achieved over the past 10 years.
Fair wages and the opportunity to work increased hours can mean the difference between a good, middle class job and living in poverty. Many janitors are offered only 20 hours a week and janitors in Rhode Island earn as little at $39 a day. "The people don't have enough hours to make these jobs good jobs," Miller said, while working for some of the most prosperous companies in the state.