MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – The SEIU Local 26 voted unanimously on Saturday afternoon to give their negotiators the power to strike. Thousands of workers who clean and protect buildings across the Twin Cities are ready to walk off the job.
Several hundred members of the union, made up of security guards and janitors, voted in a packed auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center.
Gene Worley has been bargaining on behalf of Twin Cities’ security guards and rallied support for approval to strike.
“Now is the time to draw a line in the sand,” said Worley to a packed auditorium.
By the end of the rally, hundreds of union members gave their enthusiastic approval for its more than 6,000 members to strike. These workers are employed by companies throughout the Twin Cities, including Target, Wells Faro and U.S. Bancorp.
Union members are fighting for better wages and benefits, and have been working without a contract since the end of 2012. Many are worried their wages will be cut, or they’ll be reduced to part-time and lose their benefits.
Fred Anthony, an employee with American Security, witnessed the negotiations and says neither side appears ready to budge.
“We haven’t agreed on a single thing,” Anthony said.
The major sticking point appears to be employee wages and benefits. The Minneapolis-St. Paul Cleaners Association is one of many groups negotiating with the union. It said in a letter to customers that its group has met with union negotiators on 10 occasions to work out a deal. They added that workers are asking for raises of 33 to 41 percent over three years, and they have not changed their position on this matter since it was first proposed.
Union workers have made it clear: if a deal isn’t reached, and soon, they’re ready to walk off the job.
Bahim Kone, a janitor at Flint Hills Refinery, says his wage is the only income for his family of four.
“My house is on the line for this,” Kone said.
The Minneapolis-St. Paul Cleaners Association told its customers it is working toward a quick resolution, one that is “fair and equitable, and one that is also mindful of the current economic challenges.”
Groups representing the employers say there is a contingency plan in place, and that service will not be interrupted.
Negotiations continue Monday. Union representatives will hope to use today’s vote as leverage to make a deal.