University custodial workers decided not to go on strike.
They reached a tentative agreement with their employer Debenham, Thouard, and Zadelhoff (DTZ), formerly called Unicco, on Friday. Members voted on Tuesday at St. Bede Episcopal Chapel near UM to make the agreement official.
The final agreement includes a 35-cent wage increase per year for the next three years, according to Eric Brakken, director of 32BJ SEIU, the local chapter of the Service Employees International Union. The previous offer was a ten-cent wage increase.
The janitors were also given an additional personal day per year. They maintain their current health benefits and vacation time.
Janitors were willing to start going on strike Monday, the day after the union’s contract with Unicco expired, if an agreement could not be reached.
“We won economic and noneconomic changes,” Brakken said. “It was about gaining respect on the job.”
Rebecca Garcia, president of Students Toward a New Democracy (STAND), feels that the custodial workers decided what was best for them, but there are challenges that still need to be faced involving workers’ rights.
“If the workers do not will it, then they are not going to engage in it,” she said. “Sometimes some initiatives are not in the best interest of the people, but one must always keep fighting for justice. The strike did not happen, but it does not entail that the fight is over.”
On the other hand, Chartwells workers have not decided on a contract with their employer, Compass Inc. The next bargaining meeting will be on Sept. 17. Employees are preparing a petition and are speaking to co-workers about committing to going on strike, Brakken said.
Tuesday’s agreement also gave custodial workers the right to respect picket lines, which allows Unicco workers to go on strike if Chartwells employees are on strike.