Sierra Club, Teamsters pledge support for janitors

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February 1, 2010 // UPDATED 3:43 pm - February 10, 2010
By: Gregory J. Scott
Gregory J. Scott
With Downtown janitors threatening to walk off the job at any time, the local chapters of the Sierra Club and the Teamsters union have pledged their support in the event of a strike. At a press conference today, both groups joined City Council Member Gary Schiff to rally around SEIU Local 26.

The Teamsters’ backing could play a powerful role in negotiations, as the transportation union supplies the bulk of delivery services to Downtown. Should the janitors strike, said Teamsters Local 120 spokesman Rhys Leager, drivers will not cross picket lines — meaning Downtown buildings would no longer be able to receive deliveries.

“The pain would be suffered by the building tenants,” said Leager. “Everything from supplies for office workers to food provisions for restaurants. Freight, food service, parcels. You name it, and it’s not gonna move. We’ve done it for these guys before, and we’ll do it again.”

The Sierra Club’s support is more useful in terms of rhetoric, as the janitors union has championed environmental innovations in cleaning as the core of its contract proposals. SEIU Local 26 has pushed for a wider use of “green” cleaning products as well as a transition to day shift cleaning, which the union estimates could save building owners up to 8 percent in energy costs. Both the janitors union and the Sierra Club are members of the Blue Green Allianec, a Minneapolis-based coalition of national labor and environmental groups that advocates for good green jobs.

“Sierra Club members strive to rid their lives of toxic chemicals at home and in our schools,” said Margaret Levin, executive director of the Sierra Club’s North Star chapter. “Now we are striving to do the same at our cubicles.”

Tough less forceful than the Teamsters’ backing, Levin promised that the Sierra Club would have a very tangible effect on a janitors strike. The organization’s pledge includes joining janitors on their picket line, donating food and money to a strike fund and forcefully spreading the word about the janitors’ campaign.

“Property managers should expect to hear from their tenants who are Sierra Club members,” said Levin.