As SEIU and other labor unions consider strategies for implementing a living wage at a municipal level in Chicago and elsewhere, in downtown Columbus the struggle is advancing one office building at a time. About 30 SEIU Local 1 janitors and community supporters held a rally on Thursday outside the Columbia Gas building to call on the Casto Corporation to support good jobs for the janitors who clean their buildings.
The janitors' goal is to make union wages and benefits the standard, instead of the exception, for service workers in Columbus. The janitors who clean the Columbia Gas building are employed by C&T Office Maintenance and are not represented by a union. Many work part-time with no benefits, and earn as little as $9,000 a year, SEIU Local 1 said. The Columbus Gas building is owned by Casto.
"I've worked as a janitor for C&T for over six years now and I still only make $8.50 an hour. I struggle every week to provide for my family and make ends meet," said Timothy Baker, a janitor at NiSource, another building that contracts out its cleaning services to C&T Office Maintenance.
"We rely on food pantries just to be able to eat, and the generosity of our friends and family from our church to keep up with rent and bills," Baker said. "Every month I have to decide between the water, gas or electric bill. It's so dehumanizing. No one deserves to live this way."
“We are grateful for the prosperity Columbus has achieved over the years, but to reach our potential as a city and a region we must establish quality jobs for all workers in our communities," said Joe Pierce, a chaplain affiliated with the First Unitarian Universalist Church who opened the rally with a benediction.
"Let's put our best foot forward, but let's also remember in our success that people still struggle," Pierce said. "Any success we achieve must be shared by all, and the progress and growth we are witnessing in our region must be mirrored in the well being of every member of our city."