Cleveland janitors demand better pay

Minimum wage protest (WTAM)

(Cleveland) - Joined by community allies, SEIU Local 1 janitors from across different sectors in Cleveland rallied at the Cuyahoga Community College’s metro campus this afternoon and launched their fight for a just new contract with a path to $15 and better benefits.

While downtown Cleveland is booming, local janitors—who live dynamic lives and do skilled work to ensure our downtown buildings, including the Tri-C and those of major corporations like Key Bank and Sherwin-Williams, are clean and ready for business each day—are struggling to raise their families on wages as low as $11. Many janitors even work multiple jobs in order to make ends meet.

“I’m one of 1,650 Cleveland Local 1 janitors who work hard cleaning our city’s downtown buildings, the airport, the steel mill and other locations. In many ways, janitors are the heart of our buildings—the heart of Cleveland,” said Bartiska Jones, a janitor at the North Point Tower. “Janitors should be paid a living wage of at least $15 an hour. And we should receive good benefits. Tri-C is where futures begin. We’ll I’m ready to fight so all Clevelanders, including working families like mine, have a brighter future too.”

Local 1 janitors who clean the ArcelorMittal Steel Mill were also in attendance.

"My job is extremely important because I help ensure there is a clean and safe environment for the steel mill workers," said janitor Rodney Shelton. “I make $10.50 an hour, and my wages are so low I have to work multiple jobs just to make ends meet and provide for my family. Janitors from across Cleveland are standing together as One Cleveland, and today we are kicking off our fight for a new union contract with a path to $15, better benefits and dignity on the job."

A strong new contract would help guarantee that Cleveland janitors can support their families and communities. While the fight starts with Cleveland janitors, it will not stop until all working people across the city, including security officers and other underpaid workers, are sharing in and experiencing the real benefits from the city’s resurgence.

Janitors and their allies are fighting for “One Cleveland.” Because it’s time Cleveland worked for all of us—whether white, Black or brown—and not just a certain wealthy few.

"We have two Clevelands happening right now: a downtown that is booming with billions of dollars in new developments and another side where janitors and other underpaid workers can’t afford to pay the rent, where we struggle to provide for our families," said Kathy Curlee Jones, a janitor at the Tri-C. "This isn’t right. We're coming together with our community allies because we want every Clevelander from every zip code to benefit from our booming economy."

(Photos by Kyle Cornell/WTAM)

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