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California Custodians to Earn $20 An Hour With New Contract

More than 20,000 custodians statewide could receive a minimum wage increase, employer contribution to union pension plans and bereavement leave, which would generate thousands of dollars in additional wages and benefits.

(TNS) — More than 20,000 janitors across California ratified a new contract over the weekend that for many workers includes a $20 an hour minimum wage and an employers' contribution to a union pension plan by 2023.

The statewide contract for janitors who clean professional office buildings in California — including spaces for companies such as Apple and Visa — comes after weeks of rallies and workers voting to authorize a potential strike. Workers had worked without a contract since the end of August.

"We won what all essential workers deserve, fair wages that acknowledge our sacrifices, benefits that allow us to care for our families, and the chance to retire when we get too old to work. We are so pleased that the membership ratified this contract, and we are ready to fight for more," Anabella Aguirre, a Los Angeles janitor and a member of SEIU United Service Workers West's bargaining committee, said in the union's statement.

Janitors cleaning bigger buildings in the Bay Area and Los Angeles and with more than three years of experience will see their minimum wage increased by nearly $3 an hour by 2023, to $20 an hour for Bay Area janitors and $19.70 or $20.90 an hour for about 80 percent of Los Angeles janitors.

Wages will also increase by up to $3 an hour for janitors in Sacramento, Orange County and San Diego. In the Sacramento area, wages will hit $16.80 an hour by 2023, up from $14.40 currently.

Many janitors, including those in the Sacramento area, will now have a pension benefit for the first time, with employers contributing anywhere from 15 to 50 cents an hour to the union's plan. Although the contribution is small, it represents the start of building a pathway for the workers to have access to a secure retirement, said the union's president, David Huerta.

The contract requires buildings above 300,000 square feet in the Sacramento area to hire workers full-time by 2024.

The contract includes three days of bereavement leave upon the death of an immediate family member for Northern California janitors, as well as money toward a training program to combat sexual harassment and assault in the industry.

Officials from the SEIU United Service Workers West, which represents those janitors, estimate the contract will generate anywhere from $10,174 to $17,900 in additional wages and benefits for its members.

"This contract reflects the work they do as essential workers," Huerta said.

(c)2021 The Sacramento Bee (Sacramento, Calif.) Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

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