Houston-area janitors reach tentative contract agreement

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Janitors who clean Houston office buildings reached a two-year tentative deal Wednesday night, averting a potential strike.

Janitors, represented by the SEIU Texas union, pushed for a path to $15 an hour, more paid sick leave and more paid vacation. SEIU Texas declined to comment on the contents of this tentative agreement because it has not yet been ratified. The workers will vote on Saturday.

“It’s been a lot of work,” said Y’aneris Olivencia, communications coordinator for SEIU Texas. “I am beyond proud of the members because they were ready from day one to do whatever it took, whether at the bargaining table or on the streets.

About 2,800 janitors are employed by cleaning contractors that include ABM Industries and Pritchard, both of New York, ISS of San Antonio, Compass of Charlotte, North Carolina, Velociti of Riverside, Mo., and Sodexo of Gaithersburg, Md. .

Mirna Blanco has worked for ABM for 20 years. She said the pay rise would help her control her expenses, especially now with inflation.

“Because of the inflation, because of the increase in gas, in food, it was really hard to keep up,” she said through an interpreter. “So that’s going to help me a bit with that.”

Their contract expired at midnight on Tuesday and union members were allowed to strike after that contract expired, but they continued to negotiate on Wednesday.

Many Houston-area janitors earn $10.75 an hour, and the majority work part-time.

“We believe this agreement is fair and will reduce the racial and gender inequalities that exist in this city,” SEIU Texas President Elsa Caballero said in a statement.

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