After promising negotiations between Columbus janitors and cleaning contractors ended a strike at the Lazarus building last week, contract talks broke down again on Monday when ABM Industries took the lead in refusing to support full-time, family-sustaining jobs.
The Columbus Area Service Contractors Association, which represents seven companies who clean downtown office buildings, want the majority full-time workforce to be slashed to majority part-time. This would drastically cut janitors' wages and disqualify most of them from company-provided health insurance.
A Columbus Dispatch editorial blames the janitors' predicament on the Affordable Care Act, which increases some employers' obligations in providing their workers with health insurance. The Dispatch also attacks SEIU Local 1, arguing that the janitors' union is hurting its own members by supporting the ACA.
Melanie Harvey exposes the Dispatch's specious reasoning in her letter to the editor: "Cutting full-time workers to part-time to avoid buying health insurance is not a decision forced by the Affordable Care Act. It's a choice made by companies that want to have profits safely in their pockets rather than provide for basic needs of the people who perform the labor so the company can keep making money."
ABM can well afford to share some of its high profit margin with its workers in the form of health care benefits. Its refusal to do so reflects on its corporate values, not on the health care law.
The Fortune 1000 companies who own or lease the buildings where the janitors work are also complicit in their struggle. These corporations are in a position to pressure the cleaning contractors to treat their workers fairly. They could also make this easier for the contractors by paying them more for their services. That fact that they haven't can only mean one thing: they care only about keeping their costs low and their profits high. The janitors be damned.
ABM provides cleaning services for Nationwide, Fifth Third Bank, and PNC Bank.
"We work hard. All we want is respect and better jobs for our families. We came to the table hoping to reach an agreement with our employers," said Claude Smith, an ABM janitor and member of the bargaining team. "But we left disappointed that ABM, a rich corporation, refuses to support good jobs for our city."