SAN FRANCISCO—Hundreds of janitors took to the streets of downtown San Francisco on Thursday, July 28, to protest what they believe to be unfair wages and benefits paid by the cleaning companies that employ them. Four members of San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors marched alongside the workers to demonstrate their support.
“I’ve worked with the janitors of Local 87 for a long time,” Supervisor Scott Wiener told the SF Gate. “These are some of our lowest-paid workers. And they deserve a living wage.”
At least 300 janitors marched at A.P. Giannini Plaza at California and Kearny streets in the afternoon before heading to the streets of the Financial District. Many of these workers clean the offices in the Financial District.
The contract between Local 87 of the Service Employees International Union and a group of janitorial services that includes ABM Industries is set to expire on Sunday, July 31. The Service Employees International Union represents 3,500 janitors within the city.
“The purpose is to get the attention of the companies. We don’t want our streets to be all blocked,” union spokesman Alan Benjamin told the SF Gate. “We want to send a message. All we want is a fair deal. We want serious negotiations.”
Seventeen people were arrested at First and Market Streets for refusing to get out of the street during the march.
Benjamin continued that the demonstration was part of a week of scheduled protests that will culminate Friday when union members are scheduled to vote on whether to go on strike.
Workers are asking for negotiations to cover pay increases as an entirety. The current base pay is $13.45 an hour without benefits, and they are asking for an $6 increase totaling $19.45 an hour. Maintaining a low co-pay on health care plans and decent dental coverage is of equal importance, as well as an increase in what their employees contribute to their pension funds and a stronger employee grievance process, according to union representatives.