MINNEAPOLIS (WCCO) – After 18 negotiation sessions over six months, Twin Cities janitors have reached a tentative agreement with the cleaning companies that employ them.

Around 1 a.m. Monday, after 12 hours of negotiating, SEIU Local 26 and the Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association reached a tentative agreement on a new four-year contract. This agreement comes before a second planned strike.

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The union said the janitors will receive their largest wage increase in decades, along with steps to address heavy workloads and healthcare improvements.

In February the janitors staged a 24-hour strike, forming picket lines across the Twin Cities. The next week they forced their way inside the lobby of the US Bank building in downtown Minneapolis, until police escorted them out.

“What is most important about this is for all Minnesota workers to understand we all deserve to be able to live dreams,” SEIU Local 26 President Javier Morillo said. “This should not be just the realm of the rich.”

Morillo says thousands of janitors will make more than $15 dollars an hour immediately, while full-time janitors will reach $16.42 an hour by the end of the four-year deal, if the contract is accepted. Union officials say the deal also gives part-time janitors healthcare benefits.

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“Part-timers will have a strong wage increase, access to health care for the first time, sick days for the first time,” Morillo said.

And to deal with what janitors call a workload crisis, the agreement calls for the University of Minnesota to conduct a study.

“Having experts in ergonomics really look at any given situation, we hope, will lead us to a point where we have reasonable standards for what a worker should be able to do,” Morillo said.

“We believe this settlement is in the mutual best interest of the employees, the employers and the customers we serve,” St. Paul attorney John Nesse, chief negotiator for the Minneapolis-St. Paul Contract Cleaners Association, said.

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Union membership is scheduled to vote on the agreement Saturday.