Sam Allard / Scene
Members of SEIU Local 1 on their "Tale of Two Clevelands" trolley tour.
On the heels of new union contracts for janitors at the Cleveland Orchestra and Tri-C, janitors at the ArcelorMittal steel plant ratified an agreement of their own Tuesday afternoon. It will put them on a path to $15 per hour.
The 50 ArcelorMittal janitors with Service Employees International Union Local 1 (SEIU) voted overwhelmingly in favor of the new five-year contract. Janitors will see a 60 percent wage increase, and all will be making at least $15 per hour by 2023. The agreement also includes improved benefits, including holidays and stronger healthcare and pension funds.
In a press release announcing the new agreement, SEIU noted that "next up" will be negotiating a master contract that governs many of downtown Cleveland's most well-known commercial properties. Roughly 500 SEIU janitors clean those buildings, and the union is hoping the momentum gained from the Orchestra, Tri-C and ArcelorMittal contracts will encourage negotiators for the downtown properties to do right by their janitors.
“While we won our path to $15," said ArcelorMittal janitor Rodney Shelton in the release, "the fight for One Cleveland continues with hundreds of our brothers and sisters who are fighting for their contract downtown.”
On a recent trolley tour
, part of SEIU's larger "One Cleveland" campaign, local janitors talked about the challenges of their daily lives as they make meager wages and work late-night shifts. A recurring message from the union is that money from increased wages tends to flow directly back into the communities where the janitors live. It's money for essential home repairs, overdue bills, transportation, groceries.
"We're not asking for a lot," said Yanela Sims, Local 1's director for the state of Ohio, on the trolley tour. "We're asking for survival."
SEIU calculated that the new five-year ArcelorMittal contract will pump $1.5 million back into Cleveland neighborhoods.