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Twin Cities Janitors Hold 1-Day Strike Over Wages, Workload

MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) -- Wednesday night, thousands of Twin Cities janitors have formed picket lines outside the places they normally clean.

It's a one-day strike, but it involves 4,000 members of the Service Employees International Union. The workers say their wages are too low and their workload is too heavy.

Wednesday afternoon, the first picket line formed outside the international airport's Terminal 1. Many of the janitors clean large office buildings and several picket lines formed outside those locations.

One of the rallies was at the IDS Center in downtown Minneapolis.

Janitors who are members of Local 26 have been working without a contract since December. They're demanding a pay raise that would get both full-time and part-time janitors to $15 per hour immediately, and limits on what they say is an ever-increasing workload.

So far, the cleaning companies have offered to give full-time workers that raise, within two years, but not the part-time janitors. These janitors help keep the airport clean.

Some of them describe the amount of work they do in one shift as the equivalent of cleaning 20 homes.

"When you do the gates and the rest rooms it gets to be too much. Plus when there are a lot of people around, it gets to be quite a bit," Janitor Pamela Jones said.

These janitors say they're disappointed in how the cleaning companies have responded to their requests for better pay and better working conditions.

"I feel it's insulting. We do a lot of work around here and if it wasn't for us, that airport would be a disaster. Today I'm sure it's a little rough," Jones said.

Union leaders say full-time janitors currently make $14.62 per hour. Part-time janitors are paid between $11 and $13 per hour. The workers want an across-the-board raise to $15 per hour for everyone immediately.

"We work hard. We work hard. Everyone here have a family including me. I need a better life for my family and myself. That's why I'm here," Janitor Ahmed Kahnsay said.

Twin Cities Janitors Picket
(credit: CBS)

Some of the janitors are frustrated by the amount of work they are asked to complete by the end of each shift.

"I like to do a really good job and sometimes I feel like I can't because I have so much to do, that I have to get done in an eight-hour shift," Jones said.

The chief negotiator for the cleaning companies says they have offered to move full-time janitors to $15 dollars per hour within two years, but not part-time workers.

Additionally, attorney John Nesse said it's worth noting that these employees receive a wage and benefits package that is well above the Minneapolis-St. Paul occupational average, and that they also receive paid vacation and paid holidays as well as paid sick time and disability pay.

The janitors will come together for a joint rally at 7 p.m. Wednesday at the U.S. Bank Plaza in downtown Minneapolis.

Their next round of talks is scheduled for Monday.

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