Kevin Thomas may be a new member of Local 200United, but he knows what being a union member is all about. For the past 25 years, Kevin has been a member of SEIU 1199 where he works in dietary at the Albany County Nursing Home. “I’ve walked the picket line. My supervisor said, ‘Kevin you’re a celebrity, I saw you on the TV!’ I had to do my civic duty. It’s my union and it’s the least I can do to walk the line.”
Although Kevin is nearing retirement from the nursing home, has a second job as a janitor at the Albany County Family Courthouse. Like so many other buildings, the cleaning is done by an outside contractor, in the case ABM. But unlike some other places, this building and this contractor are subject to a SEIU 200United Capitol Region Janitorial Contract. This means that Kevin and his coworkers were supposed to be SEIU 200United union members. However, ABM was playing dirty – they were hiding from the union contract and denying the workers rights and privileges of the union contract.
“My friends asked me Kevin, in all those years they gave you no raise? They were playing us all along. They were ripping us of. I’m speaking up now.”
When Kevin and his coworkers discovered the rights they had under the SEIU 200United janitorial contract, things changed dramatically. The entire staff not only got a raise, but they received back-pay for the wages they had been cheated in the past. For Kevin, this turned out to be over $4000. Beyond raises, Kevin and his coworkers now have the rights and protections of a union contract. “It’s nice to have a union. The union works. They got your back. If you get fired there are people who can help you.”
Enforcing the SEIU Janitorial Contract is a big win, but there’s more work to be done to raise standards for all janitors in the Capitol Region. “I’m going to urge my coworker to come to the union meeting. We’re fighting for a pay raise. We want $15 – you can maybe survive on that. If we’re a force we can do something big.”