DENVER (CBS4) - Hundreds of janitors at Denver International Airport walked out on the job Saturday morning. Members of the Service Employees International Union Local 105 says 350 employees wanted better wages and working conditions.
On Saturday afternoon, the union announced they reached an "historic" agreement with its contractor, Flagship Facility Services. The agreement includes a $4/hour pay increase over the course of three years. The first year employees will see a $2.50/hour raise.
"We walked off the job united, and we won historic wages and workload protections for janitors at this airport. This agreement is good for janitors, it's good for our communities, and it's good for our airport," said Tikdem Atsbaha, a janitor of 18 years.
Union spokesman David Fernandez says other protections on workloads and more time off were also guaranteed.
The employees service the main terminals and concourses at the airport. They will begin work immediately.
The new agreement will be ratified, which will be scheduled within the coming week. The union called the strike a "last resort" amid one of the busiest travel periods for the airport.
"I'm deeply proud of our members for joining together, being tenacious, and staying unified" said SEIU Local 105 President Ron Ruggiero, "They fought together for a contract that treated them like the heroes they've been called for almost two years. This contract isn't just good for Janitors, it's good for all airport workers. Together, these Janitors are fighting to raise the standard and make a better airport for everyone."
"We keep this place running, we put ourselves at risk every day, and we deserve to be able to put food on the table for the holidays. This isn't easy for any of us, but neither is working a second job just to pay the bills. We'd love to be able to spend Thanksgiving with our families, but we're doing this to make our jobs better, our communities better, and this airport better for everyone who has to travel through here for the holidays," said Luis Gonzalez, a janitor.
In video shared on social media on Saturday, employees are heard chanting "Let the bosses clean the bathrooms!"
In early October, workers agreed to go back to work with no deal agreed upon with the company following a brief strike in September.
"We are pleased that SEIU and Flagship have reached an agreement and thank both parties for their efforts and partnership to develop an equitable solution for our janitors," said DIA CEO Phil Washington in a news release. "The janitorial staff is an important part of DEN and we thank them for their hard work."
On Nov. 19, DIA said it expects more than two million passengers over the Thanksgiving holiday. They're recommending passengers arrive at the airport at least two hours early.
A response from Flagship has not been provided.
for more features.