Office cleaners say new contract raises pay to $15 an hour


Commercial office cleaners say they have reached an agreement on a four-year contract that will raise pay to $15 an hour.

The 800 members of Service Employees international Union clean offices in downtown Wilmington and New Castle County.

Commercial office cleaners in Delaware first organized and joined the union nine years ago. Since that time, they have won wage increases and other benefits, a release from the union stated.

The union noted more than 30 percent of Wilmington residents earn an income below the poverty level, which is much higher than the nationwide poverty rate of 12.3%.The union says people who live below the poverty line were more likely to be the victims of a crime involving a gun than to those who lived in higher income households.

“I enjoy my job, but $15 an hour will make things easier on my family and me. Right now, in addition to being a cleaner, I work odd jobs; but it’s still not enough. I work to keep my family safe and secure, but I have to deal with the stress of not having enough to provide for them. While I work part-time, I have full-time bills and other obligations. An increase will allow me to not only help my family but also better my community,” Clarence Berry, a Wilmington cleaner stated in a union release.

The union cited an MIT study that indicates a living wage of $26.99 an hour is needed for one adult supporting one child in New Castle County. The current wage for Delaware commercial cleaners is $12.50 an hour.

“These hardworking men and women clean for the some of the wealthiest businesses in the world. They keep these corporations running. These cleaners want to be able to do their jobs and return home and be able to provide for themselves and their families,” said Daisy Cruz, Mid-Atlantic District Leader.

Delaware 32BJ SEIU commercial office cleaners work at more than 80 office buildings and facilities throughout Wilmington and New Castle County, including the PNC Bank Center, Bank of America, Chase and the Blue Cross/Blue Shield Corporate Plaza.

Many large banks have announced minimum wages ranging from $15 to $20 an hour for their employees.

On Tuesday, the union will hold a press conference and lobbying day at Legislative Hall in support of a $15 an hour minimum wage in Delaware.

Maryland and New Jersey are moving toward a $15 an hour wage. A similar plan went nowhere in the previous session of the Delaware General Assembly.

Opponents of the minimum wage claim the higher figure would lead to job losses in retail, hotel, restaurant and other industries. Nonprofits also said they would be squeezed by the $15 an hour wage.

Delaware’s minimum wage is $9.25 an hour with a $8.75 an hour training and youth wage.

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