The more than 13,000 janitors of the 32BJ SEIU labor union decided on Saturday to give employer Maintenance Contractors Association New England one week – until their current contract expires – before they call for a work stoppage. Providence janitors currently make $13.15 an hour.
“We’re making some progress but we still don’t have a deal,” said Eugenio Villasante, an organizer with 32BJ SEIU. “We hope to come to an agreement tomorrow but we don’t have one yet. My hope is we can avoid a strike but as of today we don’t have an agreement.”
The janitors, some 500 of whom work in Rhode Island, are demanding an annual cost of living increase and better healthcare. In many cases, Villasante said, workers want more work. “Providence is very part time,” he said.
If the janitors do go on strike, it could disrupt businesses and institutions across the Ocean State. According to Villasante, 32BJ SEIU janitors work at SEIU janitors in Rhode Island – Fidelity: 60+; TF Green: 32; CVS: 25; Bank of America Center (100 Westminster St., owned by Joe Paolino): 19; Bank of America: 10; One Financial Plaza building (downtown Providence): 16.
Elorza joins Boston Mayor Marty Walsh in pledging not to cross the 32BJ SEIU’s picket line, if they go on strike.
A work stoppage could mean Elorza would not be able to visit Joe Paolino, the mayor’s recent opposing interlocutor on poverty and panhandling in downtown Providence. Paolino’s owns one of the buildings where janitors are threatening to strike and keeps his office there.
Governor Gina Raimondo’s staff has not responded to questions about whether she would honor the picket line.