SEIU6 deal: 5,000 Seattle-area janitors keep health coverage

The following is from SEIU6:

SEATTLE (April 9, 2020) — Over 5,000 janitors who clean commercial buildings, hospitals, and municipal buildings in the Seattle area will maintain their full-family, 100% employer-paid health insurance for at least three months in the event that COVID-19 causes layoffs in the janitorial industry.

SEIU6 initiated the deal, which was reached through a unanimous vote by union representatives and executives at the region’s top janitorial employers. These companies provide janitorial services to many of our region’s largest businesses, including Amazon, Microsoft, and Swedish Hospital.

Janitors have been deemed essential workers during the COVID-19 crisis and play a crucial role in slowing the spread of the virus by disinfecting hospitals and workplaces that must remain open.

“Everyone involved understood that we needed to act fast to ensure the health and safety of janitors who are on the front lines facing risk of exposure to keep essential businesses and services functioning,” said SEIU6 President Zenia Javalera. “We wanted to put these protections in place now to remove a layer of stress for our members. Now they can feel secure in knowing that their families will maintain their medical benefits even if they’re laid off or have a reduction in hours due to COVID-19.”

Layoffs in the janitorial industry have been minimal in the Seattle region. Janitors at some sites are working overtime as the need for deep cleaning and disinfecting continues to be an important part of coronavirus response. SEIU6 is urging companies that may face reductions to make use of CARES Act resources for employers to maintain payroll and benefits through the crisis.

“In my building, we take pride in fighting back against COVID-19 by keeping the environment clean,” said SEIU6 Executive Board Member and Janitor Amir Kalabic. “We are doing important work, and we feel the stress of going to work every day when we know the safest thing to do is stay home. It is helpful for janitors to know that we have quality medical insurance to rely on if we do get sick—even if we get laid off.”

The new protection for janitors comes at a time when millions of laid-off Americans are losing employer-paid health insurance in the economic shocks of the COVID-19 pandemic.

SEIU6 has also asked janitorial companies to offer janitors over 60, those who are pregnant, and those with health conditions that make them particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 the opportunity to take voluntary furloughs if a need to reduce the number of workers arises.

SEIU6 Property Services NW represents more than 8,000 janitors, security officers, and allied industry workers in Washington state.

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