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Capitol Custodians March for Higher Wages

Washington D.C. workers set to strike when contract expires October 16

October 4, 2019

Washington, D.C. area custodians, who marched with the city’s mayor, Muriel Bowser, this week to demand a new labor contract, are preparing to strike if they don’t have a contract by October 16, The Washington Post reports.

Negotiations between officials with the 32BJ Service Employees International Union (SEIU) and the Washington Service Contractors Association began last month but stalled when both sides could not agree on salary increases. The union represents more than 11,000 custodians working in Washington, D.C., Maryland, and Virginia, many of them immigrants from Central America. Their wages currently range from US$12.10 per hour for part-time custodians and $16.10 for full-time custodians. Union leaders said they are seeking a higher increase than their last negotiation session four years ago, when workers received an increase of $0.50 per hour.

Custodians marched through Washington,  D.C. during rush hour on Tuesday to draw attention to their situation. In addition to Bowser, they were joined by D.C. Council Chairman Phil Mendelson and city council member Elissa Silverman, who addressed the crowd. March organizers said the city leaders’ presence send a message to the custodians and their employers that the city values their work and supports their pursuit of higher pay. Many of the custodians work second jobs to afford to live in an expensive city with one of the highest rates of gentrification in the country. Union leaders say most of the custodians are immigrants allowed to live and work in the United States under a temporary protected status program, which is set to expire in 2020.

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