Four states recently passed bills to implement green cleaning programs for either schools or government buildings, but one of them vetoed the pending legislation.

Connecticut joins New York, Illinois and Maryland as states that require green cleaning programs in their schools, with Nevada expected to follow shortly behind.

Connecticut Gov. M. Jodi Rell signed House Bill 6496 that requires schools to purchase green general-purpose cleaners, floor finishes, floor strippers, hand cleaners and soaps. All of the aforementioned products must be Green Seal or Ecologo certified. The bill takes effect on October 1, 2009. Schools are required to use only green cleaning products by July 1, 2011.

The state of Nevada passed a bill pertaining to the cleaning and maintenance products of floor surfaces. If signed by Gov. Jim Gibbons, Senate Bill 185 will require all public K-12 schools to use environmentally preferable floor-care chemicals.

In Hawaii, House Bill 1538, which would mandate all public schools to purchase and use cleaning and maintenance products approved by Green Seal, passed through the House and Senate, but Gov. Linda Lingle recently stated her intention to veto the bill.

The emphasis on green cleaning is even greater thanks to the U.S. Green Building Council (USGBC) and the U.S. Conference of Mayors (USCM). Both committees insist that Congress commit additional funding to evaluating the environmental, economic and health benefits of green schools. The organizations also endorsed the 21st Century Green High-Performing Public Schools Facilities Act, which authorizes billions of dollars to support school repair, renovations and modernization projects in school districts nationwide.

Beyond the educational sector, Illinois passed a bill in both the House and Senate that requires government buildings to implement a green cleaning program. If signed, the bill will require buildings to use only cleaning products that comply with the state guidelines and specifications for the Green Cleaning for Schools Act. The guidelines specifically refer to restroom cleaners, carpet cleaners, hand cleaners, hand soaps, general-purpose cleaners and glass cleaners.



Swine Flu (H1N1) Declared A Pandemic

The World Health Organization (WHO) declared the swine flu (H1N1) virus as a pandemic and raised the pandemic alert level from phase 5 to 6, the highest level possible. While the virus is of moderate severity, WHO made the distinction because it is concerned about the virus’s atypical spread patterns.

H1N1 is primarily affecting younger people, those under the age of 25. Most severe and fatal cases have been in adults between the ages of 30 and 50 years. Typically, epidemics of seasonal influenza primarily affect the elderly.

Swine flu is also continuing to spread during the warm, summer months — a time when flu viruses usually lay dormant.

As of June, more than a million swine flu cases have been reported in the United States alone.

Building service contractors should continue to disinfect commonly touched surfaces and encourage building occupants to frequently wash their hands to help curb the spread of H1N1.



Atlas Paper Mills Announces New CEO

Miami-based Atlas Paper Mills has announced that Joseph A. Tadeo has joined the company as president and CEO. Tadeo spent 25 years with Scott Paper Company’s Away-From-Home division in various sales and management roles. Prior to joining Atlas, he was Senior Vice President and General Manager of Jarden Consumer Solutions, Personal Comfort and Wellness business unit.



Minimum Wage Increase Creates Obstacles For BSCs

By Nick Matkovich, Contributing Editor

Effective July 24, the federal minimum wage will increase from $6.55 to $7.25 an hour. This is the third and final increase in a three-part process that began in 2007 when minimum wage was $5.15.

BSCs customarily dealt with a minimum wage increase by modifying customer contracts to account for the difference, but renegotiating is more difficult today. Customers are already looking to reduce spending and many are cutting cleaning services. An increase in cleaning costs stretches a tight budget even further.

Jim Peduto, president, Matrix Integrated Facility Management, Johnson City, N.Y., suggests that BSCs have candid conversations with their customers about increasing costs.

Based on the conversation, BSCs may consider absorbing the cost of a wage increase. However, this cuts right into the company’s bottom line.

Or, BSCs can increase prices, essentially passing the new wages out to customers, but this creates a risk that clients will try to solicit competitive prices from other contractors.

The increase in minimum wage will also have repercussions for BSCs’ staff. Many BSCs pay their janitors more than the minimum wage. However, the pay scales were predicated on a premium they were paid above the national minimum wage, says Cody Gulley, owner, Dusters Plus, St. Petersburg, Fla. To hold the wages at a premium, BSCs will have to increase wages for all employees.

In the past, if employers did not adjust wages for workers already making more than the minimum wage, employees would be inclined to look for another job with pay above the new minimum wage. However, this current economy may benefit BSCs who can’t afford to increase pay scales across the board; with the deflated job market, employees are less inclined to leave, says Peduto.



Penguin Care Changes Name To Building Wellness Institute

Daycon Products Co., Inc., Silver Springs, Md., has announced that Penguin Care, Daycon’s green cleaning training division will operate under the new name, “The Building Wellness Institute,” as an independent organization.

The institute is also the first green cleaning training program in the nation to receive GS-42 accreditation through Green Seal’s accreditation agency. The program provides building service contractors and in-house service providers the training they need to meet the requirements of Green Seal’s GS-42 and ISSA’s Cleaning Industry Management Standard (CIMS).