The Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 32BJ has proven for 7,000 New Jersey building cleaners that, especially in tough economic times, there is power in a union.
With just four days to go until SEIU’s contracts expired with office building owners throughout the state, and a strike already having been authorized, SEIU negotiated a contract that will see wages increase by over 10 percent over four years throughout the state and benefits such as health care continue. In an economy in which the middle class is bearing more than their share of the downturn, it is inspiring to see a union winning these benefits for people currently making around $12 an hour.
But the work is not over. Today at 4 PM in Jersey City at 101 Hudson Street, joined by several elected officials including Hudson County Executive Tom DeGise and Assemblymen Charles Mainor and Jason O’Donnell, New Jersey workers will rally both to celebrate the new contract and to support their colleagues across the river in New York, who also face a January 1 deadline but have not reached a contract. The New York deadline is one of many upcoming deadlines throughout the country of contracts still not renegotiated as most SEIU contracts expire in 2012.
The formal member vote on the new contract will occur in early January – but this one already looks like a winner. We at Blue Jersey congratulate SEIU for keeping middle class New Jersey jobs and hope that New York office owners follow suit soon.
PS A related movie recommendation for the holiday weekend – Bread and Roses tells the (fictionalized) story of a SEIU organizing drive in LA. It’s a bit over the top but fun and worth watching.