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City Janitors Hope to Recuperate Benefits, Wages

Custodians to hold a demonstration outside of City Hall on Thursday, Nov. 15 at noon.

Several janitors plan to protest Thursday in an effort to recuperate lost wages, hours and benefits lost when the city contracted with a new temporary services company, Mountain View Patch has learned.

The janitors—who clean City Hall, the library, and the police and fire building at 1000 Villa St., among other locations—lost nearly $4 an hour, saw their weekly hours slashed almost in half and now have no medical insurance with the switch from GCA Services Group in September to Innovative Maintenance Solutions (IMS), a non-union company.

Now, for the past two weeks the workers have taken to handing out fliers outside of City Hall, and with the help of the Services Employees International Union (SEIU) plan to picket on Nov. 15 to pressure the city to choose a union-friendly company that will restore their wage and benefits.

"This is part of a process so that the City of Mountain View changes its decision," said Victor Enriquez, an SEIU organizer. "We would like the city to choose a company affiliated with a union."

According to Patty Kong, the city's director of finance, Mountain View had a contract with GCA that stretched back to 2002. In contract negotiations, GCA asked for a significant increase. The city didn't accept the new terms and GCA sent a termination of services notice to the city.

"It is a very unfortunate situation and it's not like the city is not cognizant of the situation," Patty Kong, told Patch, about the changes to the employees wages and compensation. But she also expressed the urgency of finding a new service provider. "The city had to look for a new company."

To mitigate the potential loss of jobs, the city encouraged IMS to interview the 11 eligible janitors for new jobs. Of these, seven were hired and have continued to clean buildings. However, these janitors went from making about $13.70 to $9.25 and went from full-time to part-time employees. Some janitors declined the offer.

"They cut our benefits and now they can fire us without cause," said Victor Garcia, a San Jose resident, who's cleaned in Mountain View for eight years. "I'm disappointed with what's happening."

Kong emphasized that IMS "is an interim company" that is "not guaranteed a long-term contract."

She also acknowledged that the city would consider companies affiliated with unions and "not just looking at lowest bidder" with the request for proposals (RFP) go out and bids received. The RFPs haven't gone out yet, she said.

Chris Costanzo, the city employees' SEIU chapter chair, supports the janitors.

"We want the city to hire companies that are unionized and require a living wage," he said.

Regarding the protest on Thursday, Kong sympathized.

"It’s their right to do," she said. "I understand why they are doing that. Hopefully there will be a good a resolution in the future and I’m sorry they don’t see the efforts the city is making."

Patch reached out to IMS for comment, but did not receive a reply by time of publication.

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Ellyn November 14, 2012 at 03:30 PM
I think unions have strong-armed cities to accept benefit levels that municipalities cannot continue to sustain. Cities are going broke. It is time to look at competitive non-union businesses.
Diana November 14, 2012 at 05:47 PM
Savemos q nosotro los trabajadores en los USA la union Es parte de nuestro ayuda en tener buenos beneficios y buenos salarios Por q las corporaciones con trabajadores sin unions solo nos explotan para eyos vivir bien y nosotros mas explotados, pero cada dia somos mas fuertes con las uniones
Claudia Cruz November 14, 2012 at 06:21 PM
Ellyn, yes, there are cities and counties making tough decisions about how they spend their money. Contra Costa County just decided to close down four fire stations to save operating funds (I believe it cost them $1M per station per year to operate). But Mountain View has historically been a well-run and hasn't ruled out extending the new contract to a unionized company and it's not married to the idea of contracting with the lowest bidder. Putting the medical benefits aside, what do you think about the employees losing $4 per hour and getting less hours?
Claudia Cruz November 14, 2012 at 06:28 PM
Diana, hay personas que dicen que las uniones les está costando mucho dinero a las ciudades, algunas cuales están a punto de quiebra. No tiene un ciudad la responsabilidad a todos sus residentes de mantenerse en buena posición fiscal? Aunque sea a la desventaja de algunas empleados? Cual es tu opinión?

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