Boston Janitors Strike, Gain Some Ground With Contractors
Six Boston building service contractor companies recently reached an interim agreement with Service Employees International Union (SEIU) Local 254 janitors nearly a week after the workers began to strike for health insurance and more full-time work.

The contractors agreed to provide part-time janitors in buildings larger than 400,000 square feet with health coverage and full-time hours. Currently, janitors employed by these companies must work 29 hours a week to qualify for health insurance, but most workers clean in 3- to 4-hour shifts which fall short of the requirement. Under the new agreement, janitors only will have to work 27 hours to qualify for health coverage. Part-time janitors who want health insurance will be able to add hours of overtime to meet 27 hours for health coverage.

Other benefits within in the agreement include paid sick days, job security when facilities change contractors, and English classes and job training. The six contractors involved in the agreement include Allan Industries, ABM, Colin, Collins, Control and One Source.

At press time, 1,900 Boston janitors continue to strike against UNICCO, which provides cleaning service to 1,450 buildings in the Boston area, and some other smaller cleaning companies being represented by UNICCO during meetings with the union. One hundred workers from the companies involved in the agreement went back to work.

“The agreement shows a settlement is possible,” says Cynthia Kane, spokesperson for SEIU. “So why can’t UNICCO do the same thing?”

School System Discovers Overtime Theft Scam
Oakland, Calif., school officials say they have broken up an overtime scam allegedly involving 26 janitors and a supervisor to date. Officials report that the workers stole $150,000 from the district through manipulating their time cards.

The district plans to fire six janitors and the supervisor, and 12 more custodians have been suspended with pay while accountants check their time cards. Officials allege another eight workers may have questionable overtime claims.

After hearing rumors of possible overtime scamming by the janitorial department, the district’s superintendent hired an investigator to review employees’ time cards.

The investigator found some custodians were nearly doubling their low-$30,000s salaries through overtime. Some workers submitted two time cards at one time, claiming to be working in two schools at the same time. Some reported working more than 24 hours in one day.

Other custodians expanded their paychecks by recording the start time of their overtime shift a few hours into their regular shift. Others claimed they were working overtime when they were sick or on vacation.

The six custodians plan to fight at coming hearings between the union and the district for their jobs.

None of the workers have been charged with a crime, but the Oakland Police Department is reviewing the case with the possibility of seeking “felony theft of public funds” charges from the county’s district attorney.

The janitors allegedly involved in the scam represent only 10 percent of the district’s custodians.

The district’s overtime policy has changed since the alleged scam. Custodians must get approval before working overtime, and they need to record the request and approval on a form. Before the alleged cheating, janitors could report overtime hours after they working them.

ASHRAE Approves Mold-Related Database Research
The American Society of Heating, Refrigerating and Air-Conditioning Engineers (ASHRAE) is funding research to develop a database of microbial volatile organic compounds (mVOCs) associated with mold growth in problem building environments.

These mVOCs are chemicals made by mold that may have a moldy or musty odor. In the ASHRAE project, Detection and Removal of Gaseous Effluents and By-Products of Fungal Growth that Affect Environments, mVOCs associated with specific common mold species will be identified and measured. The species then will be grown under realistic building conditions to establish sampling procedures. The procedures then will be validated in real building environments.

The mVOC database will contain:

  • Predominant mVOCs that may be associated with poor indoor air quality in problem buildings;
  • Unique indicator mVOCs, which can be used to indicate whether microbial growth is present in problem buildings and to supplement conventional bioaerosol sampling techniques.

ASHRAE expects the project to take 18 months to complete.

Trade Groups Team Up for Asian Cleaning Show
A new biennial international cleaning exhibition and conference, held in Malaysia, is the result of a partnership between four trade associations in the global cleaning and maintenance industry.

The Clean Asia Show is sponsored by the U.S. International Sanitary Supply Association (ISSA®); Netherlands-based Amsterdam RAI BV; the Association of Italian Makers and Distributors of Cleaning Machine Equipment and Products for Professional Cleaning; and Singapore-based Clean Asia Media Pte. Ltd., publisher of Clean Asia magazine.

Mergers & other moves

  • Soft Vac Corp. of Silver Spring, Md., announced an agreement with S. Freedman & Sons, a janitorial supply company in Landover, Md., to provide its facility protection covers privately labeled for USSI, a building service contractor in Washington, D.C.
  • Steamin Demon Sales carpet extractor company located in Granville, Ohio, changed its name to John Downey Co.