The Militant (logo)  

Vol. 74/No. 15      April 19, 2010

Bosses lock out window cleaners
in Twin Cities safety, contract fight
MINNEAPOLIS—Window cleaners set up picket lines and joined protests after bosses at two companies locked them out March 29. Workers say they were told to go home after they complained that ropes and other equipment did not meet safety standards and demanded to see inspection certificates.

Michael LeSage, president of Columbia Building Services, told the Star Tribune that he locked the workers out to put pressure on the union to give in to company contract demands. Columbia Building Services and another firm, Final Touch/Marsden Building Maintenance, issued a joint statement saying that they have an “excellent safety record.”

Organized by the Service Employees International Union (SEIU), some 50 workers have been without a contract since February. While safety is a major issue, the companies are also demanding pay cuts, according to the union.

“We won’t go back until it’s safe,” Greg Nammacher, secretary-treasurer of SEIU Local 26, told the press.

Three window washers have died on the job here and in nearby St. Paul over the last three years. One of those, Fidel Sanchez-Flores, fell four stories while clearing snow and ice in 2007.

A press conference and rally was held on April 1 in front of IDS Tower’s Crystal Court, where Sanchez-Flores died. The next day the union held a march and memorial service there attended by 60 people, Derek Eggert, a window cleaner for 16 years, told the Militant.

“On many buildings the supports and anchors are unsafe, some are cracked,” Eggert said. “We don’t have the proper tie-backs. Sometimes we have to tie-off on radar dishes and stairwells.”

John Arthurs, a window washer for two years, told the Militant, “We want the company to have simple respect for our request so that we can go home to our families at night just like they do. These are minor requests. When we ask to see the inspection certificates for the equipment, we are told ‘that is ridiculous.’”

Window washer Corey Snavely said, “We’re making the company thousands and thousands of dollars. They take everything they can from us. They need to give something back.”
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