Editorial | Janitor labor deal shows relevancy of social action
Published: Tuesday, October 2, 2012
Updated: Tuesday, October 2, 2012 07:10
A union that represents 14,000 New England area janitors, including those that work at Tufts under the contractor UGL, reached a tentative deal yesterday with the Maintenance Contractors of New England. The new contract increases janitors’ wages 12 to 13 percent over the next four years, and creates a minimum four-hour shift for janitors working in buildings larger than 100,000 square feet, among other changes, according to an article in yesterday’s Boston Globe.
The deal reached yesterday displays well how social action can affect real change. The compromise between the janitor union, Service Employees International Union Local 615, and the New England contractors demonstrates a successful attempt to secure better labor conditions for workers that currently are in bad shape. Two-thirds of the janitors represented by SEIU work less than the 30 hours per week required to earn health benefits, according to yesterday’s Globe article.
Consistent and tempered protests and action by the union and its allies kept attention on the issue and paved the way for the deal to take place. Most recently, several hundred janitors protested at a candlelight vigil two nights ago at LoPresti Park in East Boston.
The janitors were prepared to go on strike. Fortunately, such a strike will not take place.
Last month more than 500 union members and supporters rallied for the same cause at Boston Common, according to an article in Boston University’s student-run campus newspaper, The Daily Free Press. Politicians at the event included Massachusetts Lieutenant Gov. Timothy Murray and Gov. Deval Patrick.
This labor deal is significant because it reminds us that cooperative social action is still relevant. Many times it can be easier to surrender to what appears inevitable — the failure of a movement.
However, in this case, the combined efforts of workers and allies yielded a legitimate solution. The success of the compromise found here should inspire in us not only to have faith that movements can still do big things, but that we ourselves can be an integral part of it.