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Boston labor leaders rally in support of MBTA and area janitors

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At Greater Boston Labor Council’s Annual Labor Day Breakfast, union leaders and elected officials rallied in support of laid off MBTA janitors and the 15,000 property service workers bargaining over their contracts.

“The Boston office market is booming,” 32BJ Vice President Roxana Rivera said in a press release. “But for too many hardworking men and women, making ends meet is still a challenge. While our economy overall has rebounded, we need to ensure that strength is reflected in the jobs and wages of working people. We need to create a pathway to full-time jobs for commercial cleaners who are a big part of why the Boston office space is one of the most desirable in the world.”

For weeks, MBTA janitors have been protesting against the MBTA’s plan to cut cleaning services. Dozens of full-time janitorial positions have been eliminated and many more janitors who clean the T are losing their healthcare and seen their hours cut.

The MBTA janitors are part of the 15,000 commercial office cleaners and higher education service workers who opened negotiations in August. Thirteen thousand of them are covered under one of the largest private sector contracts in New England and clean and maintain almost 2,000 buildings. The cleaners are bargaining with representatives of the Maintenance Contractors of New England.

Cleaners at the bargaining table are calling for a new contract that expands opportunities for full-time employment and provides cost-of-living raises.

The janitors’ proposals also include expanding employer-paid health care to family members for full-time workers and a wage increase that will keep up with the rising cost of supporting their families, as providing part-time workers with pathways to full-time jobs.

“The 13,000 janitorial members of SEIU32BJ-District 615 do important and often overlooked work that keeps the City of Boston running. They are our neighbors, our friends and our relatives who often work multiple jobs and long hours to support their families and give back to their community. I am proud to stand with them today and everyday as we continue to strive for the quality pay and benefits that some of our most valuable workers deserve,” Boston City Council President Michelle Wu said in a press release.

The current commercial cleaning contract expires on September 30. Representatives of the union were scheduled to meet with Governor Charlie Baker’s chief of staff on Tuesday to discuss concerns over the layoff plans.

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