D.C. area office cleaners win pay raises in contract agreement, avoiding strike

Del. Holly Seibold at an Oct. 3 strike vote rally for Fairfax and Loudoun county office cleaners (courtesy 32BJ SEIU)

The workers who clean office buildings around Fairfax County won’t have to hit the picket lines anytime soon.

The union representing about 9,100 commercial office cleaners in the D.C. area reached a tentative agreement yesterday (Tuesday) for a new contract with property owners in the Washington Service Contractors Association (WSCA), averting a potential strike.

Expressing frustration with wages that haven’t kept up with the rising costs of food, rent and other basic needs, union members in Fairfax and Loudoun counties voted unanimously last week to authorize a strike if an agreement wasn’t reached by the time their existing contract expires on Sunday (Oct. 15).

“These men and women proved that collective action has the power to improve jobs and lives, just like other low-wage workers deserve nationwide,” said Jaime Contreras, executive vice president of 32BJ SEIU, the Service Employees International Union’s branch for the D.C. region.

Under the proposed contract, which will go to members for ratification next week, cleaners will get hourly wage increases of $3.55 to $3.75 over four years, according to the union. Pay currently ranges from $12.50 in Loudoun and Prince George’s counties — just over Virginia’s minimum wage — to $18.60.

The union’s 3,000-plus cleaners in Fairfax County, Arlington and Alexandria, who currently earn $15 an hour, will get the $3.55 raise, set to take effect in increments every July 1 through 2027, according to WSCA negotiator Peter Chatilovicz.

The larger increase of $3.75 will go to Loudoun and Prince George’s workers to keep them above the minimum wage, which will rise to $15 on Jan. 1, 2026.

The contract also preserves existing benefits for both full-time and part-time cleaners, per 32BJ SEIU:

Under the contract, janitors maintain access to free professional training and language courses as well as legal services for concerning issues such as immigration, family and matrimonial matters, and housing law among others. Full-time cleaners in all regions will maintain employer-paid health care, including prescription drugs, dental, vision and life insurance. Part-time cleaners will continue to receive life insurance and family dental benefits.

According to the union, the agreement was reached over seven bargaining sessions that started on June 22.

While pay was the primary point of contention, the union also took issue with a proposal that would’ve reduced shifts for new employees from five to four hours long. The suggestion was taken off the table last week, as local elected officials — including almost all Fairfax County supervisors — signed pledges and appeared at rallies in support of the cleaners.

A 32BJ spokesperson confirmed that the change in shifts was not part of the tentative agreement.

“I think it was a fair agreement for both sides,” Chatilovicz said. “We managed to, I think, give some very reasonable wage increases to the employees. Benefits all stayed the same without any further costs, and like I said, I think both sides were pleased to be able to reach an agreement before we had to worry about the contract expiration.”

The contract negotiations with the WSCA came amid a frenzy of labor actions across the country. While film and TV writers recently ended a nearly five-month strike, Hollywood actors and the United Auto Workers are still on the picket lines, and health care workers for Kaiser Permanente may walk off the job again in early November after a strike from Oct. 4-7 failed to produce an agreement.

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