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Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

The student news site of Marquette University

Marquette Wire

Custodial staff ratify new contract

Photo by Claire Gallagher
Christopher Bartolone, assistant director for facility services.

Marquette University’s custodial staff ratified a new contract this past month allowing for changes and clarifications regarding wages, benefits and consistency in language, Liz Sides, director of employment and employee relations at Marquette, said. 

The old contract with the custodial staff was set to expire this year, and bargaining for the new agreement began in July. 

“In September, they voted overwhelmingly to ratify the contract, and that is what is currently in effect,” Nick Desideri, Service Employees International Union Local 1 spokesperson, said. SEIU Local 1 is a union that represents Marquette’s custodial staff.

Desideri said an important aspect of the new contract is that all custodians are now making $15 an hour or more, which he said is important for a working family to be able to pay bills or put food on the table. He said SEIU Local 1 is a “strong supporter” of the fight for a $15 minimum wage because that is what the federal government deems a living wage in today’s economy. 

Desideri said contracts with unionized custodians have traditionally been three-year agreements. Sides said all custodial staff members who work in academic and residence halls are unionized. 

“The employment terms for our custodial staff are governed by their union contract. That contract, which was in place for three years, was set to expire,” Sides said. “The university, representatives from the SEIU and union leadership met to negotiate the new contract. This same process will repeat in another three years.”

Along with wages and benefits, the new contract also governs employment policies such as scheduling, posting for new positions and requesting time off. 

Desideri said the contract also addresses annual wage increases, protects health care costs, protects holiday overtime pay and shifts differential pay for those working night shifts, all of which he said “will help support their families.”

“Overall it’s a strong new contract for 120 custodians. It was a tough negotiation, but they came together, showed Marquette that their work is valuable, and they came out stronger for it,” Desideri said. 

“It’s a big victory with this contract,” he said. 

Desideri said the bargaining process for the contract consisted of a negotiation team made up of university custodial staff members who sat down with administration to “hammer out” the things that were important to them. He said the process is to make sure the contract allows for the custodial staff to do the best job they can do and to take care of their families. 

“Anytime you enter negotiations, there are concessions made by both parties,” Sides said. “I feel both parties negotiated in good faith and were creative with different ideas that allowed us to come to an agreement on a contract that benefits both parties.”

“Bargaining is always ups and downs, but custodians stuck together,” Desideri said. “They were very clear in their demands, and they walked away with a strong contract. That’s a big victory in itself.”

Assistant director for facilities Christopher Bartolone said both sides of the negotiation collaborated well to come to an agreement. 

“Marquette’s custodial workers do a great job keeping our campus clean and healthy for our students, faculty, staff and countless visitors,” Bartolone said. “We value their service and dedication to the university. We are pleased that we were able to come to an agreement that provides our valued custodial workers guaranteed annual raises, holiday overtime pay and health care benefits.” 

“After coming together, we fought for and won the raises and better benefits we need to lift communities across Milwaukee,” SEIU Local 1 custodian Vanessa Henderson said in a press release.

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