On Thursday, an estimated 800 janitors took advantage of the noon hour when many Silicon Valley workers hit the road for lunch to stage a high-profile rally. They're hoping to take their stalled contract talks to the court of public opinion.
There aren't many days left before a similar rally may turn into a strike. 5,000 janitors in the Bay Area and 10,000 more in Los Angeles say they're facing tough negotiations for a new contract. They work for a dozen contractors that do the cleaning for high-profile companies like eBay, Facebook, and Google.
"There is money in this economy. Workers should not have to go without affordable family health care, especially with a lot of the client companies that are the decision makers in terms of money, in these negotiations," said United Service Workers West President Mike Garcia.
The union says the main issue is a $3,000 deductible for health care for individuals and $6,000 for families. So, by taking to the streets, they hope to get attention and support, even if it held up traffic. Rosalinda Arteaga has been a janitor for 13 years. "There's a lot of people. They have a big family and they have a little kid sometimes. Personally, I use medicine for the rest of my life. How am I going to support this medicine? We really, really worry about it," she told ABC7.
The Bay Area maintenance Contractors Association issued a statement saying the union's proposals "would amount to a 30 percent hike over the next three years in wages, healthcare and pension costs," while its plan "would implement employer-employee cost-sharing consistent with those covering employees at most private-sector companies."
The existing contract expires Monday at midnight and the union says it's prepared to go on strike early Tuesday morning. However, negotiations were still underway Thursday evening at a hotel in South San Francisco.