According to a press release on
Two of the nation's largest mall owners, Simon Properties Group and Westfield Properties, and the nation's largest union of property services workers, the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), have formed a partnership that will raise national workforce and service standards in the retail and service sectors and pave the way to lift approximately 5,000 workers at the bottom of the economic ladder out of poverty.

Concern over the growing income gap and the need to preserve the American Dream by creating stable, well-paying jobs is leading more and more national corporations to commit to hiring responsible janitorial contractors who pay decent wages, provide health care, and respect workers rights to form a union free from intimidation and fear.

The partnership opens the way for thousands of workers in 373 malls around the country to form a union and creates a standard that requires contractors who work in Westfield and Simon malls to pay decent wages and provide health insurance. Simon, the nation's largest mall owner, counts among its largest properties the Galleria Mall in Houston and Circle Center Mall in its hometown of Indianapolis.

In an attempt to keep bid prices competitive, cleaning contractors typically pay low-wages, and do not provide employees with health insurance, sick days or vacation. Turnover is high among the workers and service quality often suffers as a result. Under the new agreement, Westfield and Simon have committed to supporting vendor contracts that provide higher wages and health benefits to contracted-out janitorial employees.

"This partnership is a real investment in America's communities," said Andrew L. Stern, President of SEIU. "By putting their corporate values first, Westfield and Simon have chosen a business model that will have a positive impact on the communities they operate in, by transforming low-wage jobs into good jobs with a future. This partnership will result over time in a more stable workforce that can deliver even higher quality services to clients.'

Employers Throughout the Country Have Seen the Need to Reduce Effects of Poverty Economy in 2006.

Coalitions of service workers, unions, local clergy, community leaders, and mayors emerged this year in ten cities and called on real estate property owners to provide higher wages and health insurance to workers as a way to strengthen local economies and improve the future prospects of low-wage workers and their families.

Employers have responded favorably to these proposals. In the last few months of 2006, more than 10,000 property services workers of all backgrounds in every corner of the country — including seemingly unlikely places like Texas — have won higher pay, health insurance, and a voice at work by voting to form a union.

• 5,300 Houston janitors — who were paid as little as $20 a day — got national attention during a month-long strike marked by appeals to the major corporations who control Houston real estate, including Chevron, to ensure better jobs at their properties. Just before Thanksgiving the janitors, most of them Latino immigrants, won a new union contract that provides affordable health insurance and will more than double their income in 24 months.

• 5,000 security officers in Los Angeles, 70% of them African-American, secured their civil right to freely form a union with SEIU.

• More than 1,000 security officers and janitors at major universities, including Harvard, won a voice at work by organizing a union with SEIU; Janitors at the University of Miami won a 30% pay increase in the first year and health insurance.