Temesgen recalls the night that the site supervisor came and told the night shift janitors that their hours would be cut. It was early in the pandemic, just over 2 years ago.
At the time, it seemed reasonable, and the site supervisor made it clear that the decision had come from above.
Then the night shift janitors learned that the dayshift janitors who were under the same contract had not lost any hours at all. When they questioned management, they couldn’t get a straight answer. Night shift janitors were working the same workload as before, but on reduced hours. Their frustration grew.
Then workers began returning to their offices, and and their workloads intensified, making it harder for them to finish their work without injuring their bodies. They started skipping lunches just to try to finish their routes. Some janitors quit, creating a staffing shortage, too. Some janitors were doing the work of two people and multiple floors on reduced hours.
Shop Steward Temesgen explains: “We reached a point where the workers had enough and we needed our voice to be heard.”
They reached out to Brenda, their union organizer.
“I am so proud of my co-workers because we gave up our lunches to meet up with union representatives to find a solution. We meant business,” Temesgen said.
SEIU6 Organizer Brenda spoke to each worker at the site and compiled a signed letter to management detailing the issue.
After weeks of meeting with management and waiting for a response, the night shift janitors won back 8 hour days, effective April 1st.
After having reached their goal, the group realized there were other underlying issues at the worksite that needed to be addressed. So they kept organizing. They set a labor management meeting to discuss issues like changes in management that created confusion on who to report to.
Temesgen and her co-workers attended the meeting with management to discuss these issues. By the end of the meeting, management agreed to the following:
- To establish a monthly labor management meeting to address workplace issues
- For the company to hire more janitors to help alleviate heavy workloads
- For management to respect janitors, who deserve respect in their workplace
“To us it was not about just resolving issues but also building the right foundation so we can have happy workers at the site,” Temesgen said.