UM Janitors Reach Agreement With Unicco To End Strike
Striking janitors at the University of Miami have reached an agreement with their employer, Unicco Service Co., Newton, Mass., to end a two-month walkout over low wages, union representation and lack of healthcare. The walkout also included hunger strikes by workers and students, and visits from prominent figures including former Democratic vice presidential candidate John Edwards and Teamsters president James Hoffa.
Weeks into the strike, university president Donna Shalala agreed to raise the minimum wage of its contract workers and announced that all contractors with the university must provide health insurance with low monthly premiums. However, janitors continued to strike over alleged unfair labor practices and union representation.
Under the new agreement, janitors can choose whether to form a union. Unicco will grant union recognition if a majority of workers vote in favor of joining the Service Employees International Union.
Immigration Reform Update
Hundreds of thousands of immigrants and their supporters boycotted work on May 1 to join demonstrations under the banner “A Day Without an Immigrant” with hopes of convincing Congress to grant legal status to more than 10 million illegal immigrants currently residing in the United States.
“I’m not a criminal, I have a good record. I want to stay here for work,” says Jamie, an immigrant and janitor, who took part in the demonstrations. “The United States gives me a little opportunity and now I can do something good for my family. It changes everything.”
Sending these immigrants home would have an effect on the cleaning industry. As of March 2005, 7.2 million of the estimated 11 to 12 million illegal immigrants in the United States were employed, according to a study by the Pew Hispanic Center, a nonpartisan research organization. Of these 7.2 million, 17 percent worked in the cleaning industry.
One immigration reform bill already has passed in the House of Representatives. Business owners employing immigrants should be aware that this bill requires employers to confirm the authenticity of employees’ Social Security numbers against a national database. Those violating the bill would face fines as much as $25,000 per violation.
A different bill, however, recently failed in the Senate despite President Bush’s support. Under this bill, illegal immigrants who have been in the country less than two years would be forced to leave, while those here longer could apply for temporary work permits and eventually earn U.S. citizenship.
Two New England states are taking steps to go green. Connecticut governor M. Jodi Rell has issued an executive order requiring all state agencies to use environmentally-responsible cleaning products.
Neighboring state Massachusetts has reintroduced “the Safer Cleaning Products Act” in the state’s House of Representatives. If adopted, the bill would require the State Commissioner of Public Health to publish a list of environmentally-preferable cleaning products and would prohibit the use of products not included on the list.
Charles Jones of Mitch Murch’s Maintenance Co. (4M), St. Louis, received the Custodian of the Year Award at the 2006 Building Service Contractors Association International (BSCAI) Convention and Trade Show. Jones has been an employee since 1984 and was recognized for his outstanding attendance record, dependability, honesty and integrity in his job performance, say company executives.
In addition, BSCAI awarded 4M the Outstanding Overall Record in Employee Safety and Vehicle Safety Award for the 12th consecutive year.
Rubbermaid Commercial Products, Winchester, Va., received an award in recognition of its commitment to leadership in environmental stewardship from Steve Ashkin, president of the Ashkin Group, Bloomington, Ind.
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