Protest People with big placard and megaphones on demonstration. Crowd protesting people composition on the city park background

The unrelenting cold, wind and snow that often blankets the Northeast over the winter months provides a valid excuse for millions to cozy up and throw a blanket over themselves. Yet  janitors in New Jersey had a different idea last week, taking to the streets in a protest calling for improved wages and voting to authorize a strike if demands aren’t met.

Their words must have worked. The 7,000 janitorial workers got a new contract by night's end, according to SEIU.

The new four-year contract is subject to ratification by members and includes up to $3.80 in wage increases that will have some workers in the state starting at $18 by 2023. Workers will keep their quality family health insurance without premium sharing and continue to enjoy legal and training benefits. The new contract improves retirement benefits for many workers, expands paid sick leave, creates notable protections against sexual harassment and creates a statewide labor management committee to discuss the physically demanding conditions of working as a janitor.

For the first time, the contract includes comprehensive protections against sexual harassment: It requires that employers provide and post a sexual harassment policy in the workplace, protects workers against harassment by third parties, and lays out a process for follow up and discipline.

Earlier this year, more than 100 janitors who clean Marquette University in Milwaukee reached a deal that guaranteed annual wage increases and holiday overtime pay.