32BJ takes a stand in N.Y.

January 3, 2012

WHITE PLAINS, N.Y.--More than 500 union workers held a march and rally here on December 15. The unionists were members of Service Employees International Union Local 32BJ and are office cleaners who clean buildings throughout the lower Hudson Valley.

The 3,300 workers represented by Local 32BJ in the region directly north of New York City recently voted unanimously to authorize a strike when their contracts run out on January 1.

The workers are employed by several different companies, which in turn contract with various management companies overseeing thousands of office buildings in the area. Westchester County, where the city of White Plains is located, is one of the richest counties in the U.S. and home to such corporations as IBM, Pepsi, ITT Corp., Sheridan Hotels and Starwood Hotels.

As Kwame Peterson, a spokesperson for SEIU 32BJ said, "Many of these workers already work two to three jobs just to make ends meet." He added that the contractors are proposing a pact that would freeze wages and increase part-time positions, rather than full-time ones. The benefit to contractors in limiting new workers to part-time positions is that they're easier to replace and they get fewer benefits.

But if the contractors thought they could ram this contract down the throats of workers, they had to think again. The unionists were loud and spirited at the December 15 rally, showing they were determined to fight.

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