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Janitors, supporters rally in Seattle for fair contract

SEATTLE — About 300 janitors and community members were joined Friday by Rep. Jim McDermott and King County Executive Dow Constantine to support a fair contract for janitors in King County.  Currently around 3,000 janitors, the majority of which are low-income, immigrant workers are represented under the current contract.

After a month of negotiations with their employers, janitors are still feeling the threat of having their healthcare benefits stolen away.  Puget Sound area janitors, represented by SEIU Local 6, have been in bargaining since May 8, trying to hammer out a new agreement before their current contract expires on June 30.

“We busted our backs during the recession taking on bigger workloads.  Building owners and the companies we work for have remained successful because of our hard work.” said Govaina Speight, a member of SEIU Local 6 who waxes and shampoos carpets in the Seattle area.  “Now that the economy is improving they want to punish us by taking away our healthcare and trample our union rights.”

Local 6 members say employers are trying to diminish their rights to organize under the new contract by limiting the union’s access to employees and reduce the number of Shop Stewards — the direct communication link between union members and their leaders.  Recently, janitors in the Russell Building have felt a backlash from the bargaining table by being dismissed from their positions or threatened with dismissal.

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