4,000 janitors went on strike Monday in Twin Cities; 1,000 nursing home workers plan the same on Tuesday

Dee DePass, Star Tribune on

Published in Business News

More than 4,000 janitors walked off the job at 100 office Twin Cities office buildings Monday after their union failed to reach contracts with dozens of employers during lengthy weekend bargaining.

Waving signs and chanting "We are the Union" and "Shut it Down," scores of janitors from SEIU Local 26 picketed throughout the day Monday in front of several downtown Minneapolis buildings, including Ameriprise Financial, IDS Center, Hennepin County Government Center and the Minneapolis Public Service Building.

It's the beginning of a week that will only see more workplaces disrupted. About 1,000 nurses and aides at a dozen metro nursing homes are striking starting Tuesday. Minneapolis-St. Paul International Airport workers will begin striking Wednesday if a settlement is not reached with their employers.

All of the workers are part of SEIU locals.

Abel Mendiola, who has worked cleaning buildings for 17 years, started walking the picket line at 7 a.m. Monday. He currently earns $15.54 an hour, he said.

"It's hard to pay the rent and bills," he said. "Food and electricity are very high."

Employers, such as ABM Industries, Marsden Services, Harvard Services and dozens of other cleaning subcontractors, have said the union is seeking too much, especially during a sensitive time when the office real estate market is struggling amid lingering impacts from the pandemic and the rise of remote work.

SEIU Local 26 President Greg Nammacher said the union members are not convinced. Janitors were essential employees who worked through the pandemic, with many getting sick, incurring medical bills and receiving no pay while recovering. Workers were doubly hit when inflation shot through the roof, he said.


Monday's disruption prompted some downtown employers to postpone meetings and to alert their own employees that it was okay to work remotely.

The strike also has won the support of the North Central States Regional Council of Carpenters, and other building trades and Teamsters truckers who turned their rigs around Monday morning in order not to cross janitor picket lines downtown, Nammacher said.

Other workers joined the janitors in picketing Monday, including members of the non-union group CTUL (Centro de Trabajadores Unidos En La Lucha) and FirstService Residential condo maintenance workers who are seeking to unionize.

Additionally, some nursing home workers joined janitor rallies this weekend and Monday ahead of their own strike that begins Tuesday at locations including St. Louis Park Estates in Roseville, St. Therese in New Hope, Bryn Mawr in Minneapolis, Cerenity in St. Paul and Providence Place in Minneapolis.

The nursing home nurses will rally at 10:30 a.m. Tuesday at the St. Louis Park Estates nursing home in Roseville, MN, and then join the office janitors for a joint rally at 1:45 pm at the State Capitol.

The SEIU originally called for 8,000 janitors and airport workers to begin striking Monday. But that number slid to 4,000 after the SEIU reached tentative, master labor agreements last week with 2,000 security guards, 500 retail janitors and 300 event stadium workers.

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