OAKLAND, Calif. — Approximately 55 janitors who clean Northern California Safeway supermarkets unconditionally returned to work Thursday night after walking off the job Wednesday night, as protracted contract negotiations continued between SEIU United Service Workers West Local 1877 and four janitorial services employed by Safeway.
The union, which represents 450 janitors at Northern California Safeway supermarkets, said the janitors who stopped working were motivated by their frustration with the contractors’ unfair intimidation of workers, including illegal threats of termination, and proposals to sharply reduce standards for wages and benefits.
“I walked out because Safeway’s janitorial contractors are not working with us to negotiate a contract which will remedy unsafe and unhealthy conditions in the stores, and help us support and build a life for our families,” said Leodegario Acevedo, a janitor in Santa Rosa, Calif. The union has made a point of asking that “green cleaning” chemicals be used by the janitors rather than standard chemicals, which it said are unhealthy for workers.
On Thursday afternoon, Rachele Huennekens, Northern California communications specialist for the SEIU United Service Workers West, which includes Local 1877, said, “We are hoping that significant progress will be made at the bargaining table today and tomorrow.”
ABM Janitorial Services, New York, one of the four contractors involved in the negotiations, said in a statement Thursday that its behavior has been “respectful and proper” and reiterated an earlier statement that its proposed wages and benefits for the Safeway janitors are “equivalent to those overwhelmingly approved just last year by the same union’s other local janitors.” The current statement added, “We urge that inflammatory rhetoric be replaced with good-faith bargaining.”
Jim Beard, lead negotiator for all four contractors, did not respond to a request for comment. The other three contractors are Premier Floor Care, Crystal Cleaning Service and Alliance Maintenance Solutions (AMS).
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