The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News

The independent student newspaper of Northeastern University

The Huntington News



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Union representing 330 Northeastern janitors tentatively agree to historic new contract, avoiding strike

A crowd of union members and supporters gather in Post Office Square in downtown Boston following a tentative new contract agreement. The updated contract included the conversion of 500 part-time jobs to full-time positions. Photo courtesy 32BJ SEIU and Ann Hermes.

At 4 a.m. Wednesday, a negotiation committee of janitors of Local 32BJ of the Service Employees International Union, or SEIU, which represents about 330 cleaners at Northeastern, unanimously approved a new tentative union contract, preventing a strike, according to a press release from the union. 

The new contract includes annual pay increases totaling over 18% by 2027, which is the largest salary increase ever secured by 32BJ SEIU cleaners in Massachusetts and Rhode Island, said Franklin Soults, a spokesperson for the union. The contract also converts 500 part-time positions in Boston and Cambridge to full-time jobs, which grants cleaners employer-paid health benefits. The decision came just hours before the contract was set to expire at midnight Thursday. 32BJ had been negotiating with the Maintenance Contractors of New England, or MCNE, since Sept. 14. 

“Everyone is a hero here,” said Somerville City Councilor Willie Burnley Jr. at a rally in downtown Boston following the agreement, according to the press release. “And in this fight, you’ve made it so that hundreds of workers can have the full-time positions that they deserve.”

The union’s contract was last updated during the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. Because cleaners worked through the pandemic, facing layoffs, sickness and a shortage of supplies, negotiators pushed during bargaining for increased wages and salaries. 

“Building cleaners risked themselves and their families to keep properties safe and sanitized during the pandemic,” said 32BJ SEIU Assistant to the President Roxana Rivera after the gathering in the press release. “Many never even got a thank you for that sacrifice. This wage increase is essential in the post-pandemic economy, but it also recognizes the vital contributions of these workers, which simply should not be ignored after what we went through.”  

32BJ members clean about 90% of the commercial office buildings in the Boston area, as well as buildings on college campuses like Northeastern and many buildings outside of the city and in Rhode Island, Soults said.

Massachusetts and Rhode Island’s new contracts follow a series of historic agreements for 32BJ in the cities of Pittsburgh, Philadelphia and the Washington D.C. metropolitan area. Currently, contracts in the Tri-State New York metro region and in Connecticut are under negotiation and set to expire Dec. 31. 

A crowd of 100 janitors represented by 32BJ gathered downtown Boston Wednesday evening to celebrate the win. Multiple city councilors from Boston and Somerville addressed the crowd. After the city councilors spoke, bargaining committee members offered thanks to city council members and fellow union members in Spanish. 

The gathering ended with the crowd chanting “Si, se puede,” which, when translated to English, means “Yes, we can!” 

Union members will vote on the agreement at meetings across the region between Saturday, Nov. 18 and Tuesday, Nov. 20. The union said it will announce the results Nov. 22

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