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News ::
Hundreds back janitors at Copley Square rally (english)
20 Oct 2002
Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, a diverse coalition of city and suburban dwellers joined religious, community and labor leaders in Boston's Copley Square yesterday to support striking Hub-area janitors as their bitter walkout entered its fourth week.
Hundreds back janitors at Copley Square rally

by Kay Lazar
Boston Herald
Sunday, October 20, 2002

Standing shoulder-to-shoulder, a diverse coalition of city and suburban dwellers joined religious, community and labor leaders in Boston's Copley Square yesterday to support striking Hub-area janitors as their bitter walkout entered its fourth week.

``As a health-care professional, I know working people need health care. This is ridiculous,'' said Dawn Belkin-Martinez, 43, a Jamaica Plain resident and social worker from Children's Hospital who joined several hundred others at the noon rally.

Lack of health care has become a focal point as the Service Employees International Union, and its Local 254 in Boston, have pressured contractors to agree to the janitors' demands for more health benefits, more full-time jobs and higher pay. Local 254's 10,000 members are mostly recent immigrants who work part time, so do not qualify for health benefits.

Union officials said yesterday that their members overwhelmingly ratified an interim agreement with nine cleaning contractors to boost pay, hours and benefits. Under the agreement, part-timers who work in large office buildings will qualify for health coverage and full-time work opportunities.

The problem is, those contractors represent only 25 percent of the market. The area's two largest cleaning contractors, Unico and Janitronics, have not signed on, and that sparked criticism at yesterday's rally.

``Clearly this is a case of big money and greed,'' said the Rev. David Carl Olson, president of the Greater Boston Interfaith Organization.

But a spokeswoman for the Maintenance Contractors of New England, which represents Unico and Janitronics, said the rally was not about helping the workers' cause.

``The time we should be spending now is not with these street antics the union has been creating these last three weeks,'' said Alicia Talanian. ``We should be getting back to the bargaining table and be able to come to an agreement that will actually benefit employees and mean something over the next four years.''

Sources say Unico and other cleaning contractors are preparing another wage and benefits package to present to the union, possibly in a few days.

Nonetheless, the union plans to pump up the volume Thursday, when activists are slated to descend on the Hub for a daylong action, blocking streets and office towers.
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